How can we cultivate a heart of gratitude in ourselves and our kids?
I know I say this every year, but I feel like Thanksgiving really snuck up on us this time. I mean, weren’t we JUST finishing up summer vacation and getting ready for the school year to start? Like Yesterday??
Each year on Redeeming the Chaos, I post an episode that’s all about contentment and gratitude. I was recently interviewed on the Full Spectrum Parent Podcast and we talked about how to cultivate a heart of gratitude in ourselves and in our kids. Today’s episode is going to be a cross-cast of my interview on that show.
Full Spectrum Parent Podcast
The Full Spectrum Parent podcast, hosted by Greg and Jessica Hurlbut, is the only faith-based autism parenting podcast on the web.
Greg and Jessica Hurlbut are parents of five children: two autistic, two adopted, and one future president. They desire to serve special needs families each week with a dose of help, a dose of humor, and a dose of hope.
You can find their show at https://www.jessicahurlbut.com/full-spectrum-parenting
I don’t know if I’ve shared this explicitly with my listeners and readers before, but my oldest son is on the high end of the autism spectrum (used to be called Asperger’s). So I have really appreciated listening to Jessica’s podcast and the wisdom and encouragement she and Greg have to share to their listeners. If you have a child with autism, or any special needs, be sure to check out Full Spectrum Parent.
Why is it so hard for kids to be grateful?
We live in a world where everything comes with two-day prime shipping. There’s no doubt that we live in a very materialistic society. Our kids are constantly bombarded with marketing and advertising, trying to convince them they want more, more, more.
BUT, while we do live in a society and time that might make it more difficult to be content, we can’t really blame Amazon, or the advertising industry, or our consumer-minded society.
People have been struggling with contentment for thousands of years.
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:8:
“Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.”
But the struggle with discontentment goes back even further, to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. God had blessed them and given them everything they could possibly need. He said they could eat from every tree in the garden, except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Adam & Eve wanted more.
They were not satisfied with what God had given them. They didn’t trust that God’s provisions were enough. They believed the lie that God was holding out on them.
Ultimately, contentment is a heart issue, not a stuff issue.
Contentment is a heart issue, not a stuff issue.Laurie Christine
What are some practical ways to teach kids to be thankful and content?
PRAY FOR A HEART OF GRATITUDE
I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
God’s will for us to be thankful – pray for a thankful heart in your kids
MODEL A HEART OF GRATITUDE
I know this is difficult as parents… we wonder, “how am i supposed to teach my kids to be thankful when I myself struggle with discontentment?”
Ask God to give you the strength to be content with your life and what he has given you. We know from the verse in First Thessalonians that it is God’s will for us to be thankful. So, we can pray according to his will and he will hear us.
2. SEEK GOD
Spend as much time in God’s Word as you can. The root of discontentment is a heart issue that believes God is holding out on you and he doesn’t love you. The more time you spend with God in His Word, the more you will get to know his character and that he gives good gifts to his children. (Even if they don’t always feel like good gifts).
3. ASK God to give you a heart of contentment.
Philippians 2:13 says that:
“God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
PRACTICE A HEART OF GRATITUDE
I have a printable Gratitude Bundle for you with some practical activities you can do with your kids to teach them to be thankful and content.
1). Gratitude journal – print out a copy for your kids or yourself, each day write down one thing you are thankful for. Have a family time of sharing.
2). Gratitude banner – print out the banner and have kids write or draw something they are thankful for on each piece of the banner. Hang them up in your house and add to it throughout the month of November.
3). Printable Bible verse cards – hang them around your house, read them together at dinner each night, choose one or two to memorize together.
EXPERIENCE A HEART OF GRATITUDE
Here are a few ideas to help our kids experience thankfulness:
- Help your children practice delayed gratification. If they want to purchase a specific toy or game (even with their own money), make them wait a little while. The act of waiting will make them more grateful in the end
- Encourage your kids to earn money in order to purchase something they want. Working hard towards a goal will also help to build character and gratitude.
- Say NO more often. When we help our kids learn to live within the limits we’ve set for them, they will learn to be more thankful when we do say yes to something.
- Learn about or visit cultures and people who do not live as well off as you do. Seeing or experiencing poverty first hand helps our kids to be thankful for what they have been given.
What is the secret to cultivating a heart of gratitude?
Philippians 4:11-12 says:
I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
Paul says “I have learned to be content.” It’s not something that comes naturally, but it is something that can be learned, and it is something that can be taught! He says “I have learned the secret of living in every situation.” What is the secret?
Philippians 4:13, says:
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
We quote that verse in any situation where we need God’s help and strength. And I don’t think it’s wrong to do that. But the verse was written in the context of being content! Paul’s secret to being content and living in any situation is: Christ gives me strength, therefore, I can do everything through him!
Do you have any advice for special needs parents who may struggle with discontentment?
As I mentioned earlier, my oldest son is on the high end of the autism spectrum, and we’ve worked through some other behavioral issues with some of our other kids as well.
I love my children dearly. But sometimes it’s tempting to look around at everyone else’s families… the ones whose children seem to be “perfectly well-behaved”, and ask God: “Why? Why does my family look like this? Why do my kids struggle with these particular things? Why can’t we just be normal?”
I don’t want to pretend to know or understand each of your individual situations, and I know that many of you are dealing with situations that are many times more difficult than my family’s situation.
But Here are a few pieces of encouragement:
- Don’t believe the lie that God gave you these children because he knew you could handle it, or because you are such a special person. God absolutely gives us more than we can handle. I have a whole podcast episode on that. But when we are dealing with situations that are more than we can handle, God wants us to draw closer to him and rely on him for strength. He knows our weakness.
- Get off of social media. Facebook and Instagram only breed discontentment. When we compare our lives to others, we allow bitterness and discontentment to grow in our hearts.
- Gratitude is the cure for discontentment. Every day, write down one thing about each of your kids you are thankful for. Even if you can only come up with one thing, write the same thing every day. Focus on those aspects of your kids that you love about them.
- Pray. Ask God to give you the strength to be content with your life and what he has given you. We know from the verse in I Thessalonians that it is God’s will for us to be thankful. So, we can pray according to his will and he will hear us.
- Spend as much time in God’s Word as you can. The root of discontentment is a heart issue that believes God is holding out on you and he doesn’t love you. The more time you spend with God in His Word, the more you will get to know his character and that he gives good gifts to his children. (Even if they don’t always feel like good gifts).
LISTEN TO MY INTERVIEW ON THE FULL SPECTRUM PARENT:
** This interview first appeared on the Full Spectrum Parent podcast**