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In today’s world, it’s so easy to get caught up in acquiring more things. Even as an adult, I often find myself scrolling through my Facebook feed wishing I could be as cool as the next person. I tend to care a little too much what others think of me and forget to be grateful for the blessings I have, instead, focusing on all that I wish I could have.
Our kids are no different. They are constantly bombarded with messages in the media, from other kids, and even (unintentionally) from us that in order to be cool, to be better, to achieve, to do anything good, they have to have the latest, greatest toys and gadgets and things. They, and we, fail to realize just how much we’ve been given and fail to be thankful for those blessings.
So, in a world where everything and everyone tells us we don’t have enough, how do we teach our children (and ourselves) to be content with what they have? How do we raise grateful children in an increasingly ungrateful world?
Understand your place
The beginning of being grateful is understanding how blessed we truly are. The United States Census Bureau reports that the median household income in the US in 2017 was $61,372.
Global Rich List has a tool which shows us that, with this income, you are in the top 0.18% richest people in the world. It goes on to say that it would take a laborer in Ghana 383 years to earn the same amount of money. While someone in Indonesia would need to work for two hours to pay for a can of cola, we only need to work for about one minute. (All numbers are accurate as of November 9, 2018).
But even if you don’t make quite that much, let’s take a look at what you do have. If you have a bed to sleep in, a home with heat, food to eat, and adequate clothing, you are wealthier than a majority of the world.
Teach your children
Ok, so your kids probably don’t care or don’t understand median household income or really grasp the concept of not having a heated (or cooled) home. So how can we help them begin to understand the concept of being grateful? There are several
Don’t Spoil Them
Trust me, I get it. We want to give our kids the world. For me, it’s so much fun buying new things for my two boys knowing they will love it. I enjoy seeing their faces light up when they get a gift. I love dressing them in all the cute clothes. It brings me a lot of joy. But are we really doing them a favor by giving them everything they want?
Children who have everything they could ever dream of tend to become more bored, want more
Give them opportunity to earn
When I work really hard for something, I tend to value it a lot more. I know what it truly costs to get that thing. The same is true for a child. If you are constantly giving them everything they want and they never have to earn anything, their belongings have no real value to them. But if they save their allowance for weeks to buy the new toy they’ve been dying to have, well then, they will know what its value is.
Let them make some mistakes
When our children start earning and spending their own money, it is our natural instinct to try and guard them, to keep them from managing their money poorly. But children who are never allowed to make mistakes grow up to be adults that make lots of them.
It’s our job as parents to teach them the consequences of their mistakes now, while the stakes are relatively low, so that they can avoid making more costly mistakes when they are older. The next time your child decides to blow his birthday money on a cheap toy to be instantly gratified, let him. But don’t rescue him when he realizes a few days later that he will have to wait for something better because he didn’t use his money wisely.
Give to others together
If your children are old enough, set aside some time to go volunteer at a local breadline or homeless shelter. Nothing changes your perspective quicker than seeing first hand the struggles of those less fortunate than you. Some other ideas include:
- have your child donate gently used toys or clothes
- let your child use their own money to purchase a new coat, a toy, a meal or something else for someone in need
- work together to assemble and mail a care package to a soldier serving away from their family
- Sponsor a child or pack a box for Operation Christmas Child
- help your child make a meal for a family with a new baby or a sick family member
- Bonus: if you have the opportunity, take your child to participate in a short-term mission trip
Model gratitude yourself
This may be the hardest and yet the most important means of teaching gratefulness. As a kid, I sometimes heard the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But that’s not how things work is it? We all know that kids (and adults) model their behavior after those they are closest to, whether intentionally or not. That means that the best way to teach your child to be grateful is to practice gratefulness yourself.
Over the next few days, be more conscious of what you say and how you act. Are you constantly talking about how you wish you had a bigger house, a newer car, the money to go on vacation? Do you forget to say thank you when someone does something kind? Do your kids ever hear you voicing your gratitude for simple things like a meal on the table or a warm coat to wear? It may seem silly, but it’s important to not take things for granted and to remember to model contentment with what we already have instead of always wishing for more. And while you’re at it, be sure to tell your littles thank you too, and show your appreciation for them when they do something well.
Remember what’s important
There are some things we have to be grateful for that cannot be measured. The love of our family and friends, snuggles from our babes, and the gift of time spent together with the people who mean the most to us.
But there’s something even more valuable than all of these things. When you think of all the people and things you have to be grateful for, remember God, who made all of it possible. The scriptures say…
Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12:28
Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:3-4