It seems like a big fat failure to admit that my children are often ungrateful when receiving gifts. They commonly forget to say “thank you” or to exhibit gratitude to the giver.
The Heart of Grateful Kids
This Christmas we tried a different tactic with the kids. In years past I usually give them a quick pep-talk before they unwrap gifts. They typically nod and smile, “Yes, Mom!”, but I can see that their candy cane crazed eyes are staring past me and envisioning the imminent gift extravaganza. And so, as they unwrap their presents, my husband and I prompt them each time to say “thank you”. Over and over again the scene is repeated as each child unwraps their gifts.
This year rather than just ask each child to say “thank you”, I started the gratitude lessons a couple of days before Christmas. We began our instruction by engaging the kids’ hearts. How? In our family we believe that all heart change begins with the word of God. In the bible God commands us to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:39). We understand that engaging in this commandment of neighborly care is due to our gratitude for the love that we are first shown through Jesus (1 John 4:19).
What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do With it?
After mulling over these truths with the children, we considered the application of this lovingkindness. Have you ever heard of a sir sandwich? I instructed the children to give a “thank you” sandwich of sorts. Here’s the process:
Are you expecting me to say that this was a phenomenal success? Would you like to hear that my little lions are now gracious giftees, attentive to their patron? If I told you those wonderful things I would be lying. My children are still learning to be grateful. They still need to be prompted to say “thank you” (even my oldest, on occasion). Even though my family didn’t experience a complete 180-degree change in their etiquette, I consider this lesson a success. We engaged their hearts and then gave them a concrete activity for applying this lesson toward loving others. I look forward to continued progress in this area.
As a family we’ll be using the same process next year. The only change will be to begin the practice earlier in the month. I’d prefer to start these conversations when the Christmas tree makes its appearance after Thanksgiving. I’m convinced that engaging their hearts to understand the biblical truths of love and sacrifice is the key to raising grateful children. This is one of occasions when I wish I had a time machine to see the future. Someone please tell me that these sweet rapscallions will end up ok! 🙂
Do you have any tips for raising grateful children? I’d love to hear some wisdom of moms with grown children. Speak up, ladies!