By Joey and Carla Link
November 16, 2022
“What does it take to get grateful kids? It doesn’t matter what they get, they always want more.” Have you ever thought this about your kids? I know there are times I thought this about mine.
The opposite of gratefulness is selfishness. From wanting a bigger or better helping of dessert to wanting to be the first one in the car so he can get the best seat, or wanting to wear inappropriate clothes; “Me, Me, ME!” rears its ugly head. If the child who is putting himself first doesn’t get their way, they can make it difficult for the whole family.
The real problem for this child is a lack of gratefulness. Every child thinks they are grateful because they say “thank you” when they get something but a lot of the time they have to be reminded to do so, and then it doesn’t count as coming from your child’s heart (unless they are just learning to say it). But when it comes to putting their grateful spirit into practice, being willing to do without something or sharing their toys, or accepting a small or lessor sized cookie than someone else, the look in their eyes or their body language or what comes out of their mouth says it all.
Do you deal with an ungrateful spirit when you see or hear it? Or do you think not saying “thank you” without being reminded to do so is not a big enough deal to take on? By not dealing with their ungratefulness you are telling them it is okay to be selfish.
Kids today do not accept the disappointments of life. They think they should get what they want when they want it. This is called entitlement.
A teen girl we know was frustrated on Christmas Day when she didn’t get the latest Smart-Phone like all her friends did. The saying is true that “you never know what you have until you don’t have it.” She begged and pleaded with her parents but they didn’t think she was ready for the freedom having a cell phone would bring. This did not matter to this girl. We helped the parents realize the problem was she just wasn’t grateful for the things she did have, because this “wanting what others had” was a common thing for her. They could see she had never shown gratefulness for a lot of things in her life. She wasn’t pleased with all the other gifts she received on Christmas day demonstrating she wasn’t appreciative of her siblings, parents and grandparents for the thought or money they put into the gifts they had gotten her.
During our conversation with this girl’s parents, they answered our questions thoughtfully until we asked them who was first in their daughter’s life. They quickly told us God was first followed by family. We asked them what she was doing to show God was first in her life and then what was she doing to show them they were important to her. They realized her friends had crept right up to an equal plane with God and family, and they needed to work with her to get her priorities in order. She did finally realize her parents wanted more than her happiness, they wanted her to be holy too and she did start to show them her appreciation and gratefulness for what she had.
It’s actually normal and very easy for our kids to love things over people by taking them for granted, leaving little to no appreciation or real gratefulness for what parent’s, siblings and friends do for them. It’s easy to selfishly seek their own way over what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39 “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Here is a test you can try with you kids. Ask everyone where they would like to go to dinner one night. Each will likely have their own favorite place. Then ask whose opinion is most important as to where they should go. See if they pick their own. Then go to where Mom or Dad picked and have a talk over dinner about gratefulness versus selfishness.
Anytime our kids are more concerned with pleasing themselves than pleasing others, they are self-focused and they need you to work with them so they can be God-focused. It’s really difficult to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength when we are self-focused because in reality, we love ourselves more than we love God.
How do you teach gratefulness to your kids?
1. Require them to say “Thank you” for little things. Saying these words should be a regular part of their day.
2. Have them make a list of what they are grateful for. Mom or Dad can work with the ones who are too young to write. Give them their lists after dinner each day for a week and have them add 3 things to their lists that weren’t already on it.
3. Have them write on the bottom of their list one way they are going to show their gratefulness to their family that day. Have everyone read their lists after dinner on Saturday/Sunday night.
When your kids aren’t showing thankful hearts, do this again. When you are focused on the things you are thankful for, it is hard to have an ungrateful attitude.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18