Intentionally Cultivating Gratitude

My son’s eighth birthday party wasn’t the best. He had a birthday meltdown. It wasn’t pretty. There were a lot of contributing factors: too much cake and punch, high expectations, and disappointment over a game he created that no one could quite catch onto. His birthday meltdown was a wake-up call to me that I needed to take a more intentional approach to cultivating gratitude. We used that next year to focus on studying and developing gratitude and I saw real change take place in that little guy.

The year we focused on gratitude, I introduced my children to the story of Fanny Crosby.

You might not recognize the name Fanny Crosby, but she wrote over 8000 songs during her ninety-five years, like: “To God be the Glory” and “Blessed Assurance.”

Being a prolific songwriter was not the most unusual thing about Fanny Crosby. Her perspective was the most unusual thing about her:

She was thankful that she was blind. 

Fanny’s blindness was the result of a doctor’s mistake when she was only six weeks old, but she never expressed bitterness, in fact only gratitude: “It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation . . . I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.”

Wow.  No self-pity there . . . no hint of ingratitude or entitlement mentality. Her response truly reflects obedience to the command “In everything give thanks.” (I Thess. 5:18)

When children cultivate a grateful heart, it will protect them from a host of problems.

It’s really hard to throw a temper tantrum or develop roots of bitterness when you’ve learned to be thankful in all things.

And I have some good news for you—you don’t have to wait until your toddler can talk to cultivate gratitude. You can start from day one!

Cultivating Gratitude: 

♥ Talk to your infant about being thankful. Recite all the things God did in bringing him/her into this world and thank Him for each one. Sing little thank you songs.

♥ If you want your child to be grateful—model thankfulness. “Thank you” or the phrase “I’m so thankful for . . .” can fill every conversation.

♥ Use opportunities to open your children’s eyes to others’ needs. We had a yearly “gathering of the toys” when the children surveyed their abundance and chose several to give away.

♥ Make a big deal about your toddler’s little expressions of thankfulness. Hand them a sippy-cup and have them express gratitude. If you are intentional and consistent, this will quickly become second nature to you both.

♥ I have a friend whose children write out thank you cards for every gift they receive—and they’re only seven years old (twins). Before they were old enough to write, they did their thank-you cards by drawing a “thank-you” picture.

♥ Engage older children in ministry projects that expose them to real poverty. Both our children ministered in third world countries, but they also learned to be grateful from ministering locally in nursing homes and women’s shelters.

♥ Do a year-long study on gratitude. Combine Bible study with reading biographies and stories that present role models and situations that inspire gratitude.

Add to my list! How are you cultivating gratitude in your children?

(From the archives)