“I cannot tell you anything that, in a few minutes, will tell you how to be rich. But I can tell you how to feel rich, which is far better, let me tell you firsthand, than being rich. Be grateful…It’s the only totally reliable get-rich-quick scheme.” — Ben Stein

At Thanksgiving time and beyond, I want to teach my children to live life with an open hand. I want them to not find satisfaction in the accumulation of things, but to use all the blessings God has given us—health, freedom, resources, etcetera—to serve God and others with a thankful heart.

Teaching lessons of gratitude and service to others is no small task in our age of consumerism.

Before we can teach thankfulness to our children, we must be convinced about our family’s values. In our household, our Christian faith gives our kids a worldview to stand up against flawed ideas in our culture, like consumerism.

When our kids understand our values, it is easier to point out why, for instance, we don’t buy certain things that other people buy. We spend our time and money on things we believe really matter, not on the coolest new pair of shoes or fancy gadget.

Our values dictate what our focus is. We should avoid having a child-centered home; it is not our job to make our kids’ lives magical or fun all the time. In our house, to keep our home from becoming child-centered, we strive to have a Christ-centered home. For us, this means we focus on God and his word, prayer, fellowship with others, and service toward others. This doesn’t mean our lives are perfect, but it helps keep us centered on what really matters.

But what if, despite your attempts to be thankful for your blessings and to focus on your values over material possessions, you still don’t feel very grateful?

I have been there. Sometimes I feel guilty because even though I “should” be grateful, I don’t feel very grateful in the moment. The realization that I’m a discontent person is even more bothersome to me because I want to be a good example of gratefulness to my kids!

One helpful way to resurrect feelings of gratitude is to start acting like someone who is grateful. When we act a certain way, feelings and attitudes will often follow.

Last year I read a book by Kristen Welch called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. In her book, Welch mentions some tips for acting in a grateful way, which then leads to a more grateful heart. I have expanded on these tips a little bit below.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Think of something every day that you are grateful for and write it down. You can do this at the breakfast table with your kids every day!
  2. Be specific in expressing gratitude. One of the habits of highly grateful people is that they are thankful for the details. They don’t just say thank you; they say “thank you because …” and list the details.
  3. Watch your mouth. We all know the power of words. Keep each other accountable and stop complaining.
  4. Walk in someone else’s shoes. When you serve, you walk through suffering with others. Do a service project with your kids, helping others who are less fortunate than yourselves.
  5. Fill your home with visual reminders and stop to appreciate them. Scriptures and other affirmations on walls help to remind us of important truths, including how much we should be thankful. We have found that playing scripture songs in the home is also beneficial.

May we always live with grateful hearts at Thanksgiving time and beyond.


Photo Credit:Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Following image courtesy of author.