Our culture values stuff. We are bombarded constantly with subliminal and overt messages that are telling us that we need more stuff. In the face of this epidemic consumerism, how do we still raise content, thankful children? How do we convey to our children that happiness & contentment do not lie with the next great purchase? How do we communicate that contentment and happiness are actually a condition of the heart and the soul?
I am convinced that if we can begin to teach our children the virtues of contentment and gratitude at a young age, we will be giving them a gift that is far more valuable than the hottest Black Friday deal on the market right now.
So, how do we raise content and thankful children?
1. Evaluate your own heart.
First, I think it begins with us. Doesn’t it always? Sometimes I wish that not every parenting lesson required a deep search of my own heart. But more is caught than taught, so it’s important to take some time to examine the posture of your own heart.
Are you practicing contentment? Are you centering your focus on gratitude for the blessings that you have, or are you constantly looking at the things you wish you had? If you’re not sure, here’s some questions that will give you an indication of how you’re doing in this area:
-How is your impulse control? If you are frequently making impulse buys, it might be an indication that you could work on your level of contentment and gratitude for what you already have. If you need some practical tips for improving in this area, check out “How to Tame the ‘But I Want It’ Voice When You’re Living on a Budget.”
-How well are you caring for the things you already own? Are you showing gratitude and appreciation for the blessings God has given you by taking care of them well?
-How much of your focus is spent on things you would like to buy or improve?
When you look around your house can you only see the projects that are waiting to be done?
When you look at your wardrobe can you only see how lacking it is compared to that one mom on Instagram who always looks so trendy?
While there is nothing wrong with striving for improvement, it needs to be balanced with an equally great level of appreciation for what you already have. You may have house projects that need to be done, but it means you have a house to live in. You may have a wardrobe that you feel is lacking, but at least you have clothes to keep you warm.
If you find that those questions are convicting, take some time to re-align your heart. Depending on the age of your children, I even think there’s significant value in bringing your children in on that process with you. Being transparent and discussing your own temptation to believe that you need more “stuff” instead of being content and thankful for what you have can be a wonderful teaching opportunity with your children.
2. Study scriptures about thankfulness with your children.
When I was growing up my mother recited verses to me over and over and over. Now as an adult, those verses are truly hidden in my heart. As an adult, I have had verses play through my mind that directly correlated with my circumstances, and I know they were only in there because the number of times my mom repeated them to me when I was growing up. Psalm 119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” We can literally hide God’s word in our children by repeating it day and night to them.
We’ve created some verse cards and thankfulness cards to print out and display around our home as we approach thanksgiving. If you would like to use them too, click the link at the bottom of this post!
3. Focus your attention on the blessings that you have and thank God for them.
It’s so simple and yet so easy to overlook. Make it part of your daily routine to identify things that you are thankful for and thank God for them. Write them down. Display them around your house so that the next time you feel like your “wants” are becoming greater than your level of contentment, you can look around and see reminders of all of the things you have to be thankful about.
4. Do a family service project.
Discuss the fact that many people do not have the very things that we take for granted. Spend time selecting an activity to do as a family to bless others. Some ideas include making Thanksgiving baskets, serving in a homeless shelter, doing an angel tree gift, visiting a nursing home, or making cards for service men.
5. Have your children look through their toys and belongings and see if there are any that are gently used that they would like to pass on to others.
In our culture we tend to have so much stuff that we don’t even have enough room to store it all. If our stuff becomes clutter, it’s harder to appreciate it because it adds to the chaos instead of enhancing our lives. Use it as an opportunity to teach children about being good stewards of our possessions, and the value of using our own abundance to bless others.
Contentment doesn’t come from stuff or from the elusive quest for “more” that we are constantly told we need. Contentment comes from the position of the heart, and an intentional decision to be thankful for what we already have. Teaching our children to be content and thankful is such a gift that we are giving them that will serve them well for the long haul.
What are some of your favorite ways to teach your children gratitude?
Don’t forget to download your free thanksgiving verse cards!
If you found this post helpful or inspiring, share it with another mom who could use it too!