Are Your Kids Thankful?

If you have never used the phrase, “What do you say?” when your child receives something for which they should be grateful, I want to encourage you to start right now.


Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of putting words in your child’s mouth; I don’t believe they mean what we say as much as they mean what they say. For example, just because you get your child to say, “I’m sorry” after hitting her little brother, that doesn’t necessarily bring about remorse or guilt. However, there is an element of teaching that goes with reminding our children that this is a good time to be thankful. It may just be worth the effort.


The better method of teaching your children to be thankful is by example. They will notice when you say, “Thank you” and record a little feeling inside about whether that was a good thing or not. Watching us thank a waiter or their teacher can give them the context for receiving good things and offering a statement of gratitude afterwards.


I would also encourage you to observe your child’s manners and note whether you find gratitude among their expressions. If not, some conversations about whether they appreciate things that are done for them or given to them would be in order.


If they can’t find it in their heart to be appreciative, it might be worth some strategic withholding of gifts or favors at times to reinforce the point. Try letting them get their own things out of the car and say, “I enjoy helping people who appreciate my help,” as your reason. I’m not suggesting a lot of stinginess, just an occasional reality check that says people don’t HAVE to do things for you; it helps when you are thankful.


Another good way of promoting thankfulness is prayer. Prayer is a universal way of offering gratitude for the everyday things of life and the wonderful things that we often take for granted. We even use a phrase as a byword that contains real meaning, if we allow it. We say, “Thank God” when something goes well or we experience relief after a close call. Try looking up and saying it with feeling rather than making it sound like a curse word. It will offer a dose of meaning to life that will be difficult to ignore.


There are so many things about family that bring smiles and thanksgiving to our hearts. I am grateful for the gift of a loving wife, kind children and a wonderful extended family. Being with most of them over the past several days has brought a renewed sense of gratitude to my heart.


What brings gratitude to your heart? Why not say a little prayer with your children to express thanks for it?

Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.