Helping your children learn the art of THANKS!
Our son, Maxwell, is 18 months old and he is finally starting to string a couple words together.
Before now, it was mostly singular words. His favorite appear to be:
BaBa for Blankie
BoBo for Pacifier
Crack-a for Cracker
Mommmmmmmmmma!!!! (Imagine it shouted with great excitement at the top of his voice)
Ada for Sissy’s Polish name
Woof-Woof for puppy
Hop Hop for bunny
& Hot dog (he probably believes it’s one word)
Well, you get the idea…
But now it’s progressing. He said “A ball” the other day. I know. Genius! And, “Bye-bye, Sissy!” I’m telling you…straight to university for this kid.
Problem. The two words Thank and You put together to make “Thank you!”
As much as we use it with EVERY instance that he is given something or does something or completes a task as asked and we say, “Thank you,” the adorable little booger does not say it back.
We serve him food and say, “Say ‘Thank you’, Max.” And he stuffs his face. Nom, nom, nom!
Those two words simply do not roll off of his tongue.
And, in my humble mom opinion, I think it comes down to this…He says what he is excited about.
So what I need to do is teach him Gratitude with the right Attitude!
I need to help my son become EXCITED about Gratitude.
How do you do that?
It’s a great question!
My daughter is 7, and she has, since about 6 weeks of age, been involved in our foundation for the homeless and poor in Poland.
At first, of course, there wasn’t much she could do. I mean. They (the people at our soup kitchen) could hold her, and kiss her, and cuddle her. They considered Adelyne “their” baby! And it was precious. And she was a blessing.
But she was a baby. And it’s hard to teach a baby gratitude, even though the bundle that she was brought great joy to the people that came for breakfast.
As she grew, however, we tried to involve her as a wee one in our events. Now at the soup kitchen instead of only being held and cuddled, she began to serve the food. Bringing plates and cups or picking up trash.
At our church event, “Don’t Go to Church, Serve Sunday!” she and many other little hands helped make banana bread, plant flowers, and serve meals.
She did all of these things with a GREAT attitude because she was excited about them. She got to be involved. She got to get her hands dirty. She got to participate. And she was made to feel like an important part of the team!
And these are a few key elements in helping your children develop the right attitude for gratitude.
Here are five ideas to help you teach your children an attitude of gratitude:
1. Pray —Teach them how to pray with thanksgiving in their hearts for what God has given them in their lives.
2. Passion — Find their passions and start with those.
*Are they passionate about animals? Take them to an animal shelter to help.
*Cooking? Help them make cookies for an elderly neighbor.
*Nature? Take them to the local park and help them clean up.
*Christmas? Help them choose a Christmas Angel (or other locally sponsored event)
*Clothes? Help them choose a couple of their outfits that are too small but in great and beautiful shape to donate to a local clothing closet.
3. Serve — Take them places that they may not initially be passionate about and teach them how to serve along the way. Lead them by example!
*There is probably a soup kitchen in your local area that will let children participate.
*Feed My Starving Children allows kids and parents to pack food for children that are starving throughout the world (age 5 and older can participate).
*Take them to homes of single mothers and children and help them put together a program of fun! We have always brought Adelyne with us to homes such as these. It’s great for her to interact and see that kids are still kids. Living conditions and life conditions may differ, but, in the end, the joys of being a child remain the same!
*Nursing homes. Not only are you teaching your children to love, the joy you bring into a home is indescribable.
*Help take care of an elderly neighbor’s property. Perhaps you have an aging neighbor. Can you help pull weeds, paint a fence, or go grocery shopping for your neighbor? Maybe it’s even as simple as making and delivering a meal to them or drawing a picture for them. Any act, whether big or small, will bring smiles to their faces, light in their eyes, and joy to their hearts.
*Mission Trips. Gasp. I couldn’t do that, it’s too dangerous. Um. I am pretty sure there are children in other countries, too. Showing them the world may give them the passion to help change the world.
But, if you are unable to go during this time in your life, do what these amazing 6th graders in Oklahoma did for kids in Ivory Coast—they made them clothes! So when you can’t go—send! It still opens the world up for children and is a blessing all around.
4. Love — Show them that Jesus loves without barriers.
Yes, it’s important to be careful but, at the same time, teach your children to shake hands, hug, or love on people that may be considered forbidden. The Pope recently embraced a man that many would have shunned. The depiction of the beauty in that embrace touched my heart and soul. I want my daughter to have that same passion for every person she meets—whether they are clean and pristine or whether they are poor and unkempt. Love should never have a boundary. Teach your children the same!
5. Give — Help them save a portion of their money for a charity of choice.
*Adelyne saves money every year for the participants at our New Life Center. And once a year she gives the money towards the Center (usually for Christmas gifts). She made a piggy bank that specifically ONLY goes towards these men. So, on top of teaching tithing, savings, and “fun” money, she has been taught OFFERINGS.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Money is very exciting to children. So it’s sometimes hard for them to release it from their grubby fingers.
My daughter went once and robbed her own piggy bank. She really wanted a Barbie, and she descended the stairs with a bag of money. I said, “Adelyne, where did you get this money because I know your Toy Store piggy bank is empty?” Eventually she told me she robbed her own piggy bank.
And so I asked, “And what about the money for the men at the New Life Center? Did you rob that bank too?”
She admitted, “Well, I wanted to, but I couldn’t remember where I put it!”
Hahahahahaha. You have to admit, that is childishly adorable and cute all wrapped into one.
My point is—it’s not always easy for children to learn the art of giving—but it is possible to teach our children that sharing even our money with others brings great joy to their hearts and blesses those that receive.
Pray, Passion, Serve, Love, and Give. These are 5 words with great impact.
And with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, it’s the perfect time to start incorporating them not only into your own hearts and lives but into the hearts and lives of your children, too.
An attitude of gratitude?
If you raise your children with this heart of appreciation for what they have and a heart of giving to others, “Thank you” will become a beautiful part of their vocabulary…
And this is our hope for Maxwell, too!