I spent a lot of time when my kids were toddlers teaching them to say "thank you." We started before they could talk and taught them sign language for thank you. When they could speak, we gently reminded them to always say thank you when someone had done something for them.
Having our kids say thank you is polite. But I think telling someone else "thank you" is as much a reminder to us to be thankful as it is a sign of politeness. Unfortunately, too often our thanks becomes rote. We simply say thank you because we are supposed to, not because we feel any gratitude at all.
I think this is true in our conversations with God as well. Our prayers of thanksgiving can become a habitual recitation of the same things. It's not that we're not grateful for those things, it's simply that we've lost the awe and wonder involved in true gratitude.
Our kids tend to struggle with this as well. In our materialistic culture, it's easy for them to overlook all that they have because others appear to have more. We need to help our kids cultivate an attitude that recaptures the awe of knowing that God provides for us.
Psalm 106:1 says "Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." Our thankfulness should be rooted in our knowledge that God is good and He loves us. Because of those two qualities, He gives us good things.
When we let gratitude take over as the attitude of our hearts, we can find the good in all situations. It will change our perspective on just about everything. Teach your kids to live their lives with an attitude full of thanksgiving so they can focus on what God has provided and not on what others have that they don't. It's impossible to be jealous and thankful at the same time.
- Model an attitude of gratefulness for your kids. If you're always bemoaning the things you don't have, your kids will assume that behavior is OK. When you are tempted to be jealous of something someone else has, make a list -- mental or written -- of all the things you have to be thankful for.
- Have your kids make a thankfulness list. Give them a piece of paper and have them write down everything they can think of that they are thankful for. Post the list somewhere and use it as a reminder to be thankful when your kids are tempted to be jealous of what others have.
- Have a thankfulness day. Give everyone a little notebook and a pen. Tell them to write down everything they are thankful for during the day. At the end of the day have everyone share what they wrote. This is a great way for your kids to see how much they truly have for which they can be thankful.
- Express your gratefulness by making thanksgiving a specific part of your prayers. Encourage your kids to thank God every day in prayer for different things.
When you create an attitude of gratitude in your home, selfishness and jealousy will take a back seat. When we begin to view the little things in our lives as things for which we can be grateful, we take the focus off of ourselves and put it on God, our provider. Begin creating a grateful attitude in your home today and watch the atmosphere in your home change.