I have heard it say that if you could teach only one character trait then Gratefulness would be it. If you are grateful for your authorities you will obey, if you are grateful for your friendships you will be truthful and loyal, if you are grateful for your possessions you will be thorough and organized in caring for them.
After I heard the above statement about Gratefulness being a root for many of the negative behaviours we see, I worked on it for a while and I was surprised to see how quickly things changed in the hearts of my children.
The training of our children is always more effective if we can cut at the root of their attitude rather than just the branches. Gratefulness does that.
- If you have a grateful heart what is there to whine about?
- If you have a grateful heart what is there to throw a tantrum about?
- If you have a grateful heart what is there to drag your feet and mop around around?
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. Prov 17:22a
Being Grateful dismisses Pride
Others have helped me
The character issue of gratefulness cuts across the heart of pride – the heart that says I can do it by myself, I have made myself, I did it my way!
If we are honest, and humble, we will acknowledge that there have been others in our life that have helped us – be it our parents who encouraged us, be it that one special teacher, be it a friend who saw the best in us – there are people who have invested in my life to help me be the person I am today.
A few years ago, I had a brainstorming session with the homeschool kids in our co-op and they could quickly see the number of people who have helped them – in their family, in their church and in the community. The next challenge, after recognizing these people is thanking them for it.
This was a good time to talk about mentors; someone who advises, guides, teaches. For us to stop and think about the different areas of our life: spiritual, academic, practical, talents etc. As a parent it is a good time to realize that there will be many mentors in our children’s lives, our job is to encourage our children to seek out wise counsel in their years ahead.
I encourage you to share with your children the people who have invested in your life – let them see your humility, your gratefulness. Let them see the variety of areas in your life that people have given to you.
Books have taught me
Books have been very influential in my life as well people. So in that sense the authors have been mentors or influences in my life.
For the first 10 years of our married life we didn’t have space or bookcases for all our books so most of them were in storage. When we purchased these two big bookcases I had a wonderful time unpacking and remembering my books.
As I unpacked these books I could see “the Me” developing before my eyes. This was a great opportunity to teach into my children that they too can learn from books. That they need to be aware of the principle: Garbage in Garbage out as they choose their books, because their reading will influence their lives.
Thank you God
We say these words so often throughout our day, do we stop and think what we are saying. Without God I am nothing.
- He created me
- He gave me my family, my talents, my home,
- He loved me, He died for me
We say Grace at the meal table, 3 times a day, and this can become a very routine, even trite exercise. To a grateful heart though, it is a time to stop, and reflect truly on the things we are grateful for. The habits and the rituals of Grace need to be reconsidered when we see the need to be truly Grateful for the things the Lord has done.
Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things
He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24
A grateful greeting:
This little quote always gets a chuckle – but there is a truth in it.
Good morning! Lord
Good Lord! It’s morning
Choose how you start your mornings.
Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9
We first heard of the idea of a Memorial Box from Gary Ezzo, Growing Families. It strikes a chord in our heart as we want to remember the things that God has done for our family, to give Him thanks and to pass on the greatness of our God to our children and to our grandchildren.
A Memorial Box is like a shadow box – a 3 dimensional box where you can display items that remind you of the amazing things God has done in your family’s life; a souvenir, a model, a note, a photo, something small to represent the situation, the answer, the marvellous act.
Talk about the things God has done:
The people of Israel had items both in their house and on their being that were to remind them of God’s presence in their life. But they were to talk about these things as well – day in and day out. Our children can get familiar with the things we have around the house – the Memorial Box, the photo album, the souvenir, and without our constant testimony of the goodness of God those things just slip into their childhood memories without the significance. We must talk to our children – tell them the good things God has done!
In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Isaiah 12:4
Put our Gratefulness into action
Being grateful needs to be more than an attitude – it needs to have actions – an expression of gratefulness. We immediately thought of the 10 Lepers who Jesus healed – only one came back to express their gratefulness. I am sure they were all grateful but only one put it into actions!
A good activity for family night or a dinner conversation would be to brainstorm different ways you can show thanks to others. A few ideas are:
- To say thank you
- To write a note
- To give a gift
I wonder how many other ways your family can think of?
Responding to other’s Gratefulness:
If we raise the level of gratefulness in our home chances are that someone is going to say “thank you” to someone! The flipside of saying thank you to someone is the receiving of that comment. Can we accept gratitude gracefully?
There is a danger of false pride in this area. In accepting a person’s gratitude we are allowing another person to be thankful. When we so-called “humbly” wipe it we are ignoring the other person’s need to say thank you to someone who they feel has helped them. There is a balance between accepting a person’s thanks, and being proud about what you have done.
We teach our children to graciously accept the comment, with a two fold response. (These aren’t the words the kids need to say but rather the heart attitude they need to have.)
- Acknowledge that you’ve heard them
- Thank you for letting me know
- Reflect back onto the person who helped me originally.
For example: Someone thanks me for a meal I cooked for them, I thank them for their comment and I also mention that I couldn’t have done it without the children pitching-in in some way.
When we involve the people that have helped us achieve what we have done, it keeps our pride in check.
Be a family who live life with gratefulness
Once we start being aware of the people who have helped us do the things we do, or the people who have helped us be who we are – there are so many different situations in our day where we can show thankfulness. Because of Thanksgiving in America, focusing on thankfulness in November seems like a good thing to do – but there is an advantage – even for us Aussies, who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving as such; and that is, when we spend November with a thankful heart, it helps our kids prepare for Christmas – with a heart on blessing others.
Do you want to be Heart Focused in all you do?
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