We used to have this practice in our home. When one of the kids was complaining a lot I would stop them mid-whine and make them tell me three things for which they are thankful. At their young ages, they usually recited, “Mommy, daddy, our house” and that was fine with me because thankfulness begins in the simplest form.
We need to get back to this practice. Perhaps it’s due to busyness or other stresses but we’ve let this strategy fall by the wayside. There are times when I get caught in the trap of excessive complaining myself and my husband often calls me on it. Stress may very well be the greatest enemy of our thanks. But our children need to learn the practice of gratitude, no matter what their circumstances, and we need to lead them.
In the midst of stress, disappointment, sadness or great joy, the Lord deserves the pleasure of our gratitude. When we truly understand the magnitude of our blessed lives, we can turn our complaints into thanksgiving.
3 Bible Stories That Teach Kids About Thankfulness
Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:12-19 ESV
God deserves our thankfulness and we should tell him we are thankful. These ten men came before Jesus with the hope of healing. All of them walked away cleansed but only one turned back to praise God and thank Jesus for his healing. Jesus makes it a point to call out the other nine to show the importance of our gratitude. Use this story to share with your child that God is faithful to provide our needs as well as extra blessings. He deserves to hear our thanksgiving often through praise and prayer. Consider making it a daily activity at the dinner table or while driving in the car to list 3 things for which they are thankful. Regularly expressing our thanks to the Father is one of our best weapons against all of life’s battles.
Related verse: Oh give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1
The Psalms of David
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 ESV
Gratitude is an attitude that comes out of the habit of giving thanks. All through the Psalms, no matter what David was facing, we read his outpouring of gratitude to God. As he encountered good times and bad times, David always turned back to the truth of God’s goodness. This attitude often carried him through the hardest of situations. Use this example to teach your child that gratitude is a habit that is learned through practice. Just as we teach little ones to say please and thank you through repetition and relentless reminders, we learn to express our thanks to the Father through consistency. Yet, while gratitude is a habitual attitude, we want our thanksgiving to come out of a genuine heart. The more we meditate on God’s goodness and practice our thanks no matter what our circumstance, the more it will naturally flow out of a heart that loves him.
Related verse: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1
Paul’s Thanksgiving for His Friends
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might. Ephesians 1:15-19 ESV
It is good to express our thankfulness to others. The Bible instructs us to encourage one another often. Paul, in his multiple letters to the churches he was leading, always reminds his friends how thankful he is for them. Usually, following his words of thanks are words of encouragement to help build them up. Thanks and giving go hand in hand. Use this passage to encourage your child to use words of thanksgiving and encouragement with their friends and loved ones. God can use us to share his love with others by simply sharing words of gratitude and support.
Related verse: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
What stories or truths have you used to teach your children about thankfulness?
Originally published in November of 2015.
Jessica Wolstenholm is co-founder of Grace for Moms. After 15 years in the music and publishing industries, Jessica came home to be with her two small children. Although the transition from the corporate world to the playground has been an adjustment, she is learning every day to access the grace available to us through Christ as she navigates the full time job of motherhood. She is the co-author of The Pregnancy Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey to Motherhood and The Baby Companion: A Faith-Filled Guide for Your Journey Through Baby’s First Year. Jessica lives in Nolensville, TN with her husband, Dave and two miracle babies, Hope (6) and Joshua (2).