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3 Ways to Instill Gratitude Into Your Children

Do you ever find yourself envying that segment of the population leading a charmed life? They are the people awoken each morning to pressed clothes, the smells of breakfast, and a full day of social activity. Their hair is styled, their messes are cleaned, and their appointments are made for them by concerned and thoughtful caretakers. They seem blissfully unaware that their every need has been thought of and paid for as they are driven around from one event to the next, sipping their mocha Frappuccinos in the backseat. Then one day you turn around and find them in your kitchen, wrinkling their little noses and saying, “Eww, Mom, not pot roast again!” It is then you realize it isn’t envy you’re feeling. It’s disgust.

Martin Luther writes:

The first destroyers of their own children are those who neglect them and knowingly permit them to grow up without the training and admonition of the Lord. Even if they do not harm them by a bad example, they still destroy them by yielding to them. They love them too much according to the flesh and pamper them, saying: They are children; they do not understand what they are doing. And they are speaking the truth. But neither does a dog or a horse or a mule understand what it is doing. However, see how they learn to go, to come, to obey, to do and leave undone what they do not understand. ( What Luther Says, p. 139, copyright © 1959 Concordia Publishing House)

How does one raise children to serve the Lord first, then others, then themselves? How does one instill gratitude and appreciation in a child for the many blessings Christ daily bestows? If dogs and mules can learn to meet our expectations, surely our children can do the same. The key is that we set our expectations for our kids much higher than those we set for livestock.

Expect children to perform daily chores. Getting a chore done and doing it well creates a tremendous sense of accomplishment. When they are young, kids are excited to have jobs. Take advantage of that excitement and allow little ones to fold socks, set the table, water plants, and dust the baseboards. Once you get your child into the chore routine, gradually add more. The routine will become a part of his or her life that will continue into the teen years and beyond. When the whole family shares the many jobs of running the household, your child is likely to see his or her work as part of a bigger picture and less likely to feel “picked on.” Your child will see his or her work as a valuable contribution to the family and appreciate the work being done by everyone else.

Next, find opportunities to volunteer outside of your home. Understanding the needs in your surrounding community will build empathy and compassion in both you and your child. Contact local food pantries, animal shelters, churches, or social service agencies and ask how you and your family can help. Better yet, after discussing what organization he or she would most like to serve, have your child make the contact. The more your child takes the lead in this process, the more invested he or she will feel. Your child may even discover some hidden talents when leaving the comfort zone and turning his or her focus on others.

Finally, look into a mission trip. There are many opportunities both inside and outside of your country. Your child will be introduced to different cultures, perspectives, and ways of doing things. He or she will also find that despite these differences, all of us are human beings who share the universal needs of nourishment, care, and Christ’s salvation. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has a list of service projects in need of support at lcms.org/projectcatalog.

Luke 12:48 says, “Everyone to whom much was give, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand more.” The children entrusted to us have surely been given much. Now is the time to ask them to share with the rest of the world.

Scripture quotation from the ESV Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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