The first time I remember making it a heart-goal to teach our children appreciation began this way …
At our son’s 6th birthday party, during the gift opening portion:
Son: (wildly tearing at the paper) What is it? Oh it’s a battleship. My Grammy already got me this.
Then, he opened the next gift.
Son: (pulling off the bow and paper, tossing the card aside, unread): A Nerf gun! My Grammy got me one of these just last week.
In front of all the parents and children watching, I wanted to die then and there on the spot. My son needed to learn better manners. He lacked basic appreciation for not only gifts, but also cards, which were carefully chosen or made just for him. And my mom needed to stop buying him gifts every week—that would be the harder part for me to work out, which I shall address in another post on The M.O.M. Initiative.
So I began to pray, “Lord, You say that if any of you lacks wisdom, we should ask You. Here I am, asking. We need to teach our children thankfulness and appreciation. Though we can model it all day long, they still get to choose to be grateful or not. Help us, please.”
So He did help us. It was in the most unexpected way.
Over the next year, we would be on a journey unexpected to move away from Texas to Colorado. In two years, we would have another baby (four children in eight years). In three years, my husband would lose his job, and in five years, we would go through bankruptcy. ALL of these factors were lovingly filtered through God’s hands. He is always and ever FOR us. I believe one of the benefits to come out of it would be grateful children.
Before: We ate out often, enjoyed movies, bowling and other entertainment, went on vacations to the beach and trips to the mall or other stores on such a regular basis, it was normal. It was what we did.
After: We eat out rarely, enjoy a movie at the theater a couple times a year (if that), go camping nearby and vacations are not so common anymore, and a trip to the mall and other stores is not on our radar at all. It is now what we do.
Now when we do go out to dinner, even go through a drive-thru, our children are profuse in thanks. When we go to the movies, like we did the other night to see The Hobbit, they went on and on about how wonderful it was to go together and how marvelous that someone provided a gift card for us to enjoy (a matinee 3-D movie with popcorn, drinks and candy for a family of six costs about $100). When they receive a gift of any kind, they are quick to be thankful and write notes giving thanks, too. I see them savoring and enjoying and realizing, as they never did before … simply because our circumstances brought to light our habits. Those habits, many of which reflected our culture, needed to become a rarity. For while there is nothing wrong with dinner, movies, gifts and shopping, none of those things make us who we are. They are outpourings of time and money though. How we spend both our time and money reflect what we care about. So in the eight years since that unappreciative day at the party, we have come around to valuing every single outpouring given on our behalf! We are wide-awake thankful!
While this is not a prescriptive post for making grateful children, I do believe that the simple act of praying over the heart-issues of our children and asking the LORD for wisdom are vital and available for all parents. So use the welcome mat God offers and come to Him with your requests. He is the key to any of our hard questions, and He will lead you forward. It will always be in a FOR YOU kind of way, too.