Families

Why a Grateful Child is a Happy Child

Barbara Rainey
Why We Need to Teach Our Children About Gratitude

 

My visits to orphanages in countries like Russia, China and South Africa have been some of my greatest experiences.

On some trips, I took my children with me. We met little ones with no parents, no rooms of their own, no toys or clothes to call their own. Seeing their stark circumstances changed us. We learned that people who have little are often more grateful than people who have much.

Gratitude is not natural. It’s an attitude we must teach to and nurture in our kids. We have to lead by example. This can be hard for parents in wealthy nations because we are used to having so much compared to other parts of the world.

Our Attitudes Matter

In the Bible, a man named Paul wrote that our attitudes should be like Jesus: humble and selfless (Philippians 2:5). He reinforced this idea and said we should also be thankful:

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, New Living Translation).  

Why does God make such a big deal about having a thankful attitude?

I think it’s because He understands that an ungrateful and complaining heart is the opposite of a humble and selfless heart. It is, in fact, a proud heart — a heart in rebellion to a parent who is a loving provider. A heart that’s unwilling to be thankful loses out on many blessings.

Planting Seeds of Gratitude

Tim Tebow, whose parents were missionaries while he was growing up, was taught to form habits based on gratitude: “I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”

Since children are born selfish, we must patiently train them to practice gratitude. It’s not an easy task, but it’s a worthy one. A child with a thankful heart feels content, and that’s enough to make any parent happy.

Next Steps

  1. Barbara Rainey says that gratitude isn’t natural, and author Darcy Kimmel agrees. Read “10 Ways to Build Gratitude Into Our Children’s Hearts.”
  2. For more advice, read “Are Your Kids Thankful?”
  3. Hear Barbara Rainey talk with FamilyLife Today listeners about how to teach kids to be thankful.
  4. Would you like to live a life based on thankfulness? Read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.”
    • Which ideas are you inspired to implement right away?
    • Do you have tips you’d like to share that silence whining or promote thankfulness? Add your suggestions in the comment section below.

Adapted by permission from Growing Together in Gratitude, by Barbara Rainey, FamilyLife Publishing, 2009.

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