A spirit of thanks is not easily developed in children today. We live in a land of abundance and with a sense that all good things are owed us. From the water that comes out of the spigot, to the food on the table, we have little sense of God’s good blessing. Perhaps that is why a sense of thanks for the common creation all around us is so lacking. We marvel little at raindrops on roses, snow on eyelashes, crisp apple strudel or any day-to-day thing that enthralled us as children. Now, even when we are given gifts, we nod with disappointment because it wasn’t something else.
How then do we have children who are thankful, children who do not imbibe the cultural sense of all things being obligated? May I suggest a few ideas?
The common prayer said at the table is a good place to start. Parents, especially fathers, can be modeling the expression of thanks not only for the food, but for the one who prepared it, for the ability to taste varieties of foods, for the finances to purchase the food, for the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the meal together (you do realize that the day will come all too soon when the table will only have you and your spouse at it!). Another way is to sit down with the children and have them think through who gave them a gift for Christmas, then have them write a note of thanks. Encourage the note writing process beyond “Dear Grandma, thank you for the gift. It was nice.” to include thanks for the giver’s love expressed by the gift or a sense of appreciation for the fact that it was a gift. Raising the consciousness of thankfulness in the heart can also be done by modeling your thanks for simple services rendered to you in the marketplace. Saying “thank you” to cashiers, bank tellers, neighbors, newspaper delivery people – all who are “just doing their job” – will send signals of your appreciation for their work.
Ultimately, we can teach our children these valuable skills but not the sense of thanks unless we understand that our thanks is not only for, or primarily to, the person we are thanking – but to God. My understanding of living in a good world designed for people to enjoy and delight in, must primarily be to our Creator. He is deserving of all thanks for all His blessings and His benefits. (See Psalm 103 if you’ve forgotten!) He is full of kindness to all His creatures. He is great! He gives in abundance. “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!” (Psalm 107, Psalm 136)