If you have ever been around kids for any length of time, you have witnessed or participated in this simple parent/child exchange. Basically, a child is given something by you or someone else and you will hear a parent say to the child, “What do you say?” I am willing to guess that 100% of us know what is supposed to come next . . . our hope is that the child being asked the question will respond with the phrase, “Thank you.” As parents we want other people to know that we have trained our kids to be grateful. I know I have asked this question many times to my own children. The thing I want us to be aware of is when you ask your kids questions like this, what are you actually looking for? Are you truly teaching your child about Godly gratitude which leads to humility and allows our kids to trust in the Lord?
The Holy Spirit pricks my heart and asks me if I am grateful. Not just the recite-back-to-you phrase, but a life lived of gratitude. At the end of the day, if we are honest, we are mostly satisfied because our kids can answer that question “correctly.” There is some sort of pride that swells up when our child recites back what we have taught them. But the Holy Spirit does not want that to be the end of our teaching.
The Bible instructs us as parents in Deuteronomy 6:7 to “impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This whole chapter is imploring parents to share the commands and goodness of God. Not so that it is something good for them to memorize, but that they truly internalize the commands and goodness of God. If we don’t fully believe in these things, our children will know. They watch our habits way more than they hear what we say. The next time you prompt your kids to recite this phrase, go a little deeper. Share the why behind the what. We really do not want our kids to be robots that respond with the right words coming out of their mouths, but of people filled with gratitude because we talk about the goodness of God all the time.
One scripture that stood out to me on this topic is Romans 1:21. This scripture really challenged me to think deeper.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21
As soon as I read this scripture I was convicted. I know God. I have known him my whole life. The question I have to ask myself is do I honor Him as God and give thanks to Him? Not just the simple “thank you” for this food, or thank God my kids are getting good grades or thank you for letting me not get in that accident. We walk through life fooling ourselves that if we do the polite thing we are off the hook. Can we take a minute and look at the definition of “futile” in that scripture? According to the dictionary, the definition of futile is ‘incapable of producing any result; pointless.’ I do not want to become futile in my thinking, and I definitely don’t want to become futile or pointless in my own home. This is a harsh warning, but it is putting us on a path for our hearts to be darkened. What can we do to make sure that we are people that honor God and give thanks to him? What can we change about our habits and patterns to show gratitude to God and others? How do we not get caught in the traps of only thinking of being thankful this time of year? Here are a few short things that you can do to cultivate gratitude in your home:
- It must start with you! Whenever we want to show someone something or teach something to a group of people, it is important that you are already doing it. It will always be hard to teach your children gratitude when all they hear coming out of your mouth is complaining and negative thoughts. What is inside will always come to the surface. Spend time in the Word every day and write out scriptures to display around your house to remind you to be grateful.
- Make it fun! Kids love spending time with their family, and they especially love games. Invite your family in the game of finding things to be thankful for . . . nothing is off limits. This becomes less of a serious moment of making your kids say the right things and more of an activity of fun. The more we point out to them, the more they will begin to notice on their own.
- Break the Cycle! It is easy to get caught up in the everyday stresses of life and outwardly process all the things that are wrong. Without us even realizing it, we are teaching our kids to immediately find everything that is wrong instead of being grateful. It is not too late to turn this thing around. Admit to your kids that you have been negative for a long time and that God is asking you to change that. Apologize. Admit your wrongdoing to them. That alone breaks down so many walls. Ask them to correct YOU when you start to complain. This non-grateful spirit can become a habit that we do not even see anymore. It is extremely humbling when your kids correct you in love. Do not be offended by that. God will teach you through them so many times.
I have made a list of scriptures that speak about thankfulness and gratitude, and I want to challenge you to take some time and read through them and write them down. Commit them to memory. Put them in places in your home where you find yourself ungrateful. Change your mindset. I love putting scriptures inside my kitchen cabinets. When I go to open them, I am fed the Word of God. It has shaped my heart more times than I care to admit.
Psalm 35:18: “I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you.”
Psalm 95:2: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise.”
Psalm 100:4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
Psalm 136:1: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
I Corinthians 11:24: “And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
I Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.”
Philippians 1:3: “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.”
Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Colossians 2:7: “Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
I Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”
Written by: Taran Nelson. Taran is the Executive Director of Fathom Family Foundation and serves in ministry with her husband, Rev. Kyle, and their three children in Jacksonville, FL.