Heavenly Father gets pretty bugged when His kids are ungrateful.
“And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things” (D&C 59:21).
As a mother, it chaps me too when my kids don’t appreciate how good they have it. But in a world of a seemingly endless list of gimme-gimmes, how do we teach our children to be grateful instead of entitled?
WORK & SERVICE
Children are unlikely to be grateful for something when they have no idea what it took to get it.
Assign the kids chores. In the Wright household, we call them “contributions.” We want them to see how their actions directly contribute to the family. When they’ve worked for a clean home, wholesome meals, an abundant garden, clean clothes, and more, they’re more likely to appreciate the fruits of those labors.
This work can be in or outside of the home. Plan service activities as part of a family home evening, family vacation, or holiday traditions.
CLICK YOUR MANY BLESSINGS
At BYU Women’s Conference this year, Neill F. Marriott and her husband David talked about trying to teach their children gratitude. They decided to count their gratitude through the use of a clicker. They bought a big pile of tally counters (the sort they use at Costco when you enter) to keep track each day of every time they said “thank you.” At the end of the day, they would check how many times they had expressed gratitude and commit to raising that number the following day. We tried this at our house and found our kids enjoyed the game of it. One particularly competitive son made an extreme effort to give thanks for everything for a few days (even thanking us for saying “You’re welcome”).
We can help our children reframe difficult circumstances to focus on the good. When they’re going through something difficult, we may ask, “What good is coming out of this? What are you learning?” Or even, “What can you do to make this more tolerable or fun?” Sometimes when our kids are squabbling, we ask them to say 3-5 things they love about their brother. If they get in the habit of looking for the good in tough times, their brains will automatically do this when challenges arise.
Finally, the best way to teach gratitude is to model it. Thank your children for their efforts. Thank them when they hold their tongue, help a sibling or neighbor, do their tasks, bear their testimonies, or lighten someone’s load. After all, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”
The very best way to model gratitude is in our family prayers. Take the time to express sincere gratitude to Heavenly Father for His gifts and your children will begin to notice them, too.
What do you do to teach gratitude to the children in your life?