Teaching Your Child to be Thankful
Each year, as we approach the holiday season, it is easy to be drawn into the pomp and circumstance of what is seen on television or heard on the radio. Advertisements for big and better have us second guessing what we currently own. The love we once had for our shiny new object becomes lost in the appeal of the next big thing.
Children are just as susceptible to the green-eyed monster as adults are. Only we don’t really notice it because they are children. They also want the latest gadget that has hit the market. They want what their best friend has, or better yet, the next model. They are ready for the day after the fourth Thursday in November when the Christmas season officially begins. Children are all the sudden on their best behavior and parents pull out the ever popular, “If you aren’t good Santa will fly right by our house,” when they are not.
Not only can children fall victim to not having enough, but they can also fall into the trap of not feeling they are worth it. These two can go hand in hand. If someone doesn’t have something they want, then they feel that there must be something wrong with them. Feelings like this are learned. Kids will react to what they see around them. From a condescending parent or the words of a bully to a praising parent or an encouraging teacher, a child’s self-worth is dependent on the influences around them. As parents, we need to instill a healthy outlook on life. A life to where we are thankful for what we have, who we are, and where we see our life heading. Then drive that home with our kids.
Thankful for What They Have
Before my trucking days, I worked in the retail industry for eight years. I have been through many Christmases and the road that leads up to them. Of course, we all know that begins with Black Friday. That single day amazes me. One moment we are sitting around a table talking about being thankful for what we have, then later that evening we are in a line fighting for a 65” TV for $399. Such a backward day. And believe me, I have seen my share of fights over those TVs. In fact, I have even seen two ladies get into an argument over bath towels.
What are we teaching our children with that kind of attitude? How can they learn to have a sincere appreciation for their current situation if they see us upset at the world for our lot in life? Our children are mirrors. They will reflect what they see. If they see us willing to fight over the last Tupperware set, they will fight when they are faced with a similar situation.
It is okay to want to better yourself. I think it’s even okay to want nice things, but when those wants and desires become obsessive or require you to put needs on the back burner, then it becomes an issue. It is necessary to teach our kids to be content with what they have in the here and now. Then teach them that if they want certain things to work hard for them. Teach them to appreciate what they have and to understand that there are others less fortunate. Teach them that it’s okay to drive a 98 Honda Civic and not a fresh of the line sports car. When they see you appreciate what you have, then they will share content in the things they have.
Thankful for Who They Are
Short or tall. Big or small. Red hair or brown. Athletic or Academic. Fast or slow. Bold or shy. Smart or slow. Glasses or 20/20. We all have our differences. Those differences are what make each person unique. For a child to believe they are of no worth because they are short, nearsighted with freckles is sad. A child who is tall, athletic, and has a lot of friends is no better or worse than someone who is short, academic, and a loner.
God has made each one of us unique. We each have that one thing that sets us apart from the next person. Those differences should be celebrated not kept silent. They should be placed in the spotlight not sat in the back row. They should be encouraged and not condemned.
The sooner we encourage our kids in their individuality, the sooner they will be comfortable in their own skin and able to hold their head high and not listen to the naysayers.
Thankful for Where They are Going
Finally, how you react to what happens in your life will be reflected in your child. If you are passed over for a promotion and your child sees you blaming the boss, your coworkers, or heaven forbid your spouse, then they will blame everyone for what happens to them. You don’t want your child to grow up with the feeling the world is out to get them. That will eventually cause them not even to try to begin with.
I call this an “only if I” moment. It is when we look at someone and think to ourselves, if only I had what they had I would be happy. This is a very dangerous emotion. It leads to greed. It leads to envy. It leads down a path that can result in doing things to obtain that possession, position, or that status in life. It can lead to deceit, lies, and manipulation; all in an attempt to obtain something that is not yours in the first place. Or it can lead down another road where your inadequacies keep you from making any progress at all.
If a child sees you giving up because you feel you will never amount to so-and-so, then they will just as easily give up when they are faced with someone who is on another level than them. It goes the opposite way as well; if they see you cheating your way to the top, then they will think that is how life is. And will follow suit, thinking that walking all over someone else is acceptable.
It is important to remember you are always under a microscope when it comes to children. They are growing and learning. The most effective way that they learn is through observation; what they see, they do. It becomes crucial that you behave that way. If you are going to overreact to something, do it behind closed doors out of their view. We call it venting. Venting is where you just let every emotion we are feeling escape our soul. We don’t mean half the things we say or do, and we eventually calm down enough to give the situation rational thought. But your child does not see the calm, the thought process, or the conclusion. They see the explosion. So, don’t vent in front of the kids. Vent to your spouse, that is one of the reasons God has placed them in your life; to be rational when we cannot be.
My wife and I have a signal. Since my children may read this, I will not share what that signal is, but safe to say that when that signal is given, all discussion on a topic stops. The signal means that this is a subject that must be discussed between the two of us, or that one of us is overreacting and we need to talk about it alone. It works for us, and it doesn’t have to be anything specific, work it out with your spouse, and follow through. So, when you are facing a situation where you are projecting an image that is unchristian-like give that signal. And your spouse will see it like a referee throwing down a yellow flag. Then during the time out, you can clear your head and properly promote a good attitude to your kids.
When we are thankful, our children are thankful. If they see us thanking God for what we have and not upset that we don’t have more, they learn gratitude. When they see us not willing to compare our work against someone else’s, they learn self-love. When they see us accepting of the things that come our way, they learn endurance.
When our children see that no matter what happens in life, we find the good in it, then our children will find the good in life no matter how dark the situation becomes. When we teach our children that God is behind it all AND teach them that He has our best interest at heart, then they will not play the blame game when a stumbling block pops up in their path.
I live in a small town in South Central Texas with my wife Carolyn and our four children. We attend the local First Baptist Church where we have been serving for 8 years. I drive a truck in the transportation industry and I pursue my writing career in my spare time. I have a passion for writing, and I plan to use my voice to glorify God.
In addition to my freelance work, I have a series of Children’s books that will begin to be released starting in June of 2018. I also have written a novel that is currently being edited. I look forward to sharing it sometime in 2019.