Let’s say I walk up to a stranger on the street and said, “Hey there. I see you’re hungry. Can I pack up a lunch for you and make sure it stays cold all day?” I’m just guessing that they might say, “Heck, yeah!”
What if I told my neighbor that I would wash their dirty underwear and deliver it fresh, clean and folded for them? I might get a resounding, “Why, thank you!”
Kids sometimes don’t give us the same sort of gratitude and feedback. But I have good news: They do eventually. Teaching gratefulness to kids is worth it. It’s a long payback period compared to the work and energy you put into them early in their little childhoods. Think of it as the 401K of child rearing.
What you put into it gets matched by them and given back to you with interest when they get older. They don’t even have to be that old to appreciate what you’ve taught them before dividends start rolling in. I have been amazed at how much my older sons appreciate the things I’ve done for them over the 20 plus years of their lives when they come home for visits.
“Wow. These eggs and toast just appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t have to go buy them, cook them or bring them to the table. They’re just HERE.” This was a quote from my oldest son who just weeks before would have been oblivious to the fact that I made him breakfast for the 45,698th time.
They just don’t know what they have until it’s gone or removed from them.
Isn’t it true of all things that we take for granted?
Being grateful is a state of understanding what it’s like to be without what you currently have or a thankful spirit that has matured over time.
Matured over time is the key part of that concept. A two-year-old who just wants their milk cup filled for the millionth time is clearly not grateful — but we can start by teaching them two words:
That’s where we start teaching gratefulness to kids and that is where it’s finished as well. Today they will give you an automatic “Thank you,” tomorrow, they’ll be thank you for their college education. It’s just a long slow process.
Giving thanks is what we do in prayer, too. Thanking God for all that we have, and all that He will provide in the future is based on our faith in Him. Gratitude toward God is praise; it’s worship.
Our kids are learning gratefulness toward their earthly parents to understand that their heavenly Father also deserves to be thanked as well.
And that’s well worth it. Every time.