If you want your children to be thankful—grateful—adults, you have a great opportunity to work on them during Thanksgiving. This holiday can be so much more than Indians and pilgrims or eating and football! We Christians have a great opportunity to re-capture the holiday from the secularists and materialists and instill in our children a grateful spirit rather than an entitled one!
Here is a list of some of the things you can do for Thanksgiving that will move your children (and perhaps yourselves) closer to the spirit of Psalm 100:4-5 (NLT):
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
- The Bible contains many good stories of people giving thanks for God’s goodness and blessings. One of the best is the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-17. Tell or read your child this story and then ask why the one came back and why the others did not. What might have been their reasons for not returning to thank Jesus?
- Make calendars to record one thing each day for which you are thankful. See how many days you can keep this going. Be sure and not let it get silly. You can do this, for instance, by always asking “why are you thankful for . . . .worms?” You can also remind your child of how God is the source of that blessing.
- Teach your kids the principle of Philippians 4:6 (ERV): “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have.” When you pray at meals or at bedtime with them, suggest that they first give thanks before they start asking.
- If you think your children might take their blessings for granted, you might suggest having an Africa day, or a “poverty” day where they must live without their tech toys and TV, and have a very small meal or two of very plain food (rice and water, or just one-half of a bread & butter sandwich and only water to drink.) You will need to talk about this with them to help them understand what is going on. A good time to do this is at a meal prayer when we casually slide over “Thank you for our food.”
- Have a day of “no complaints before giving thanks!” No complaints are allowed about anything before a “thanks” for something is registered.
- The internet is full of Thanksgiving games, stories, poems, and songs. You might spend some time with your child finding appropriate crafts or expressions of thanksgiving.
- Another activity is to find images either in magazines or online and find all the things for which we could be thankful. You might even insert some of your own family photos. Be sure and notice actions, emotions, and/or people in the pictures, not just “stuff!”
- You might enjoy letting your child help you with Thanksgiving Day dinner, first by helping pick out the menu, then shopping with you for the food you need, and then, when possible, with preparing the food. This is great together time when you can talk about God’s goodness to your family, to the children, to your church, to the country—you have many different paths for conversations, but always let your children know how thankful YOU are to God.
As you know, the best way to help your children become thankful is to model it in front of them. I’m reminded of the scene in the old movie Shenandoah(1965) when Jimmy Stewart leads his family in giving thanks at the table, but takes all the credit for putting the food on the table http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzzyZ1M-kVU . Watch this and laugh—but be careful that you don’t live your life as if this were your prayer!
And if you do, don’t do it in front of your kids!
Colossians 3:17 (The Message): Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
(Repost from November 2012)