Not too long ago my toddler learned to say sorry and please. He is a repeating robot as he utilizes his newly acquired manners. Yet the phrase 'thank you has been just as prevalent of teaching as the other two phrases, and yet he has resisted putting those words into practice. How do we find ways to practice gratitude in our homes that teach kids gratitude? How do we instruct our children not just to say grateful things, but to practice family gratitude daily in their hearts?
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What Does the Bible Say About Gratitude?
The bible has a great deal to say about gratitude for family. Using our Bible is a wonderful way to discover ways to practice gratitude. A quick google search about gratitude in the bible will produce 100s of Bible verses about gratitude and being grateful to God, for our circumstances, and the people in our lives.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:17 ESV
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers,1 Thessalonians 1:2
Thanksgiving is simply the acknowledgment of the goodness of God in our daily life. As far as I can tell, the bible never gives us an exact formula for expressing gratitude, it simply says to do it.
Even Jesus gave thanks in many ways to his Father, including for his provision (Matthew 15:36) and for being heard by his father (John 11:41–43). Yet in he also explicitly states that the Father knows what we are going to say before we even say it (Matthew 6:7–8), so why show gratitude when God already knows our heart?
God specifically tells us that it is His will for us to be grateful.
Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.Thessalonians 5:16–18
If you are looking for more biblical guidance for gratitude in your personal life, my friend Wendy at One Exceptional Life has an amazing Joyful Living Toolbox that is filled with resources for growing in your faith through gratitude and kindness.
Why are we Thankful for Family?
God gave you your family. Like it or not, you have been given a family for a reason. All the good, bad, and ugly have their purpose. Family is a vital support network that should express love, care, and words of encouragement throughout our lives. God gave us our family and we should continually be looking for ways to practice gratitude as we worship and give back to our creator. We should teach kids gratitude in a way that encourages gratitude for our faith, family, and friends.
Science Backs up Gratitude
Science continues to back up what the Bible and God have already been saying. Isn't that incredible?! Family gratitude and thankfulness in all circumstances are healthy for us. Robert Emmons is the leading expert on the science of gratitude, and even he has found that gratitude has unending benefits for our health. Feelings of gratitude can increase our immune system, lower blood pressure, and give us deeper sleep!
How do you Teach Kids Gratitude?
Practicing family gratitude starts with creating a family culture that reflects gratitude. Creating a family that has a heart of gratitude starts with the parents. Consistency as parents is the backbone of a grateful family. It is easy to create entitled children, but hard to create grateful children. The things that often produce hearts of gratitude, like scarcity and hardship are many times devoid in our society and lifestyle. Daily practicing, both verbally and by example, a lifestyle of gratitude points our little ones back to who is responsible for our abundant blessings: God.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.Hebrews 12:28
Practicing Gratitude Exercises
Teaching family gratitude starts with consistency. Teaching our children to show gratitude is important not just because God tells us to, but it is also good for their health! Finding ways to practice gratitude takes consistency. We must exercise our gratitude muscles!
A word of encouragement is important, but it can be just as powerful to show gratitude through daily acts of service. We start with consistently stretching our gratitude muscles and we grow a culture of gratitude from there.
5 Easy Ways to Practice Gratitude with Family
We cannot expect our children's gratitude muscles to develop and be ready to flourish overnight. Using our time and talents we can create a grateful culture with simple, easy, and consistent practices. Finding ways to practice gratitude does not have to be hard, eventually, they will become second nature, just like simple kindness!
Family gratitude practices are abounding and endless. I have a long way to go as a mom in creating a culture of family gratitude. In many ways, I'm writing these down more for myself than anyone else! These are simple and easy gratitude practices to get me started, and hopefully another searching for ways of creating an atmosphere of gratitude in their homes.
1. At the Meal Table
Finding ways to practice gratitude at mealtimes can be one of the simplest ways to encourage family gratitude daily. Ask your children to think back on their day and acknowledge one thing that God did for them. Give thanks for their ideas as a family in prayer. When we teach kids gratitude in this way it creates a culture of family gratitude during a basic family activity.
During thanksgiving one year we talked about what we were thankful for at our dinner table and then wrote them on pumpkins. The intention was for our pumpkins to be displayed on our Thanksgiving table, but we ended up moving suddenly and having to throw them out. However, it was still delightful to listen to my toddlers' little words as we tried to stretch his gratitude muscles. It's very unlikely he had any idea what we were doing, but I'm looking forward to trying again in the coming years.
2. Writing Notes of Gratitude
A couple of years ago I was given a prayer box. It is a delightful little box that contains organized note cards. On these note cards, you write down prayers and file them accordingly. I have sections for thanksgiving and gratitude, prayer requests, adoration, and many others. The options are endless. As my boys become older, I intend to transition this into a family prayer box where notes of gratitude and thanksgiving are kept, and we can look back at them as the years go on.
As we find more ways to practice gratitude, it can be helpful to look back at the blessings. It's a powerful way to show your children God's goodness.
3. Memorizing Gratitude Verses and Reciting Together
Memorizing verses of truth can be a wonderful way to create grateful hearts. They can teach kids gratitude in powerful ways. Especially hearts that have gratitude for family. When we pray the truth of scriptures is powerful and as Hebrews 4:12 says, it is sharper than any double-edged sword.
Here are four Bible verses that are easy for young children to memorize to help express gratitude for family.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.Philippians 4:6 ESV
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-17 ESV
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.Ephesians 5:20 ESV
Do all things without grumbling or disputing.Philippians 2:14 ESV
If you are anything like me, memorizing bible verses isn't a picnic in the park. I struggle with even the simplest of verses. Grab these phone wallpapers, to help prompt recitation.
I have never done this before, but I think when my boys get older, it is one of those activities on my 'to-do list. We have figured out how to do our gratitude pumpkins and gratitude turkey but keeping things on a board or journal would be a bit more practical during the year. Gratitude for a family is something to practice year-round.
4. Remember Gratitude at Bedtime
Finding ways to practice gratitude at bedtime is another easy, but the consistent way we can be encouraging a culture of gratitude in our homes. When we teach kids gratitude at night, that is the last thing they will go to bed with. Right now, I love that my toddler lists off people he wants me to say thank you for while we are praying at night. He hasn't quite got the part of the prayer where we bow our heads and are quiet during prayer time! There also seems to be a need in his little toddler brain to list off his dog and uncle on his grateful list over, and over again.
Even if toddler prayers are scattered, it is exhilarating to hear their prayers of gratitude for family. God knows their heart, and he also knows ours as we faithfully direct our children back to Him. We can teach kids gratitude in small ways that someday will escalate into big ways.
5. Using Coloring Pages for our Little Ones
This is a bonus idea, mostly because I love coloring pages. You can click on the image below to get Healing Homes gratitude coloring pages, but there are many other coloring pages out there that are beautiful to use with children. My friend LeeAnn from Kingdom Bloggers has an entire resource page with free printable coloring pages.
Family Gratitude Activities
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
We have much to be thankful for because God has gifted us many good things. What other gratitude activities do you do with your family? Feel free to step into the Healing Home gratitude vault and download some of my favorite printables and activities for other ways to practice gratitude as a family.