Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I’m glad for what I have
That’s an easy way to start
For the love that He shares
Cause He listens to my prayers
That’s why I say thanks every day

These lyrics are from the Veggie Tales video Madame Blueberry – and I highly recommend it to you and your children. Madame Blueberry is a berry who is so blue she doesn’t know what to do.  She’s discontent with everything she owns and she thinks the solution is to buy more stuff from the local Stuff Mart. Surely more will make her happy? In the midst of her extravagant shopping spree, Madame Blueberry encounters a young boy singing this song even though he could not have what he wanted. As a result, Blueberry asks where Stuff Mart keeps their happy hearts. The sales staff says they don’t have those at the Stuff Mart.  This Veggie Tale makes a great point regarding the condition of our hearts.  Stuff does not make for a happy heart, thanksgiving does.

So how do we teach our children to be thankful? We are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.  If a happy heart is indeed a thankful heart, then, as Junior Asparagus sings thanksgiving shouldn’t be a once a year holiday, it should be expressed every day, even when a want has gone unfulfilled.

As parents, we need to model thanksgiving for our children. I remember when our four were small. We would pray together every night.  My husband and I began by thanking God for various things and the children would add their thanks.  Thanksgiving always came before our prayer requests.  Even though my children are grown, I try to discipline myself to thank God for at least three things before I drift off to sleep.  It really does help me sleep better!

As a parent, I need to ask myself, am I thankful for my life, right now, no modifications. Is thankfulness something I know I will experience once _______________fill in the blank. Am I “content whatever the circumstances”? Paul says the secret of contentment is the strength I get from Christ.  Am I leaning on His strength unto contentment or relying on my own which lead to discontent?  Discontent is not thanks.

I cannot teach my children to be thankful if I am not. Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise in prison.  Jesus’ disciples rejoiced that they where flogged because they shared in the gospel.  Thankfulness is not dependent upon circumstances. Thankfulness comes from being content with what I have, knowing God will never leave me nor abandon me.  Practicing an attitude of gratitude is possible in all of life’s ups and downs, because I get my strength from Christ not myself.

When preparing this blog I reached out to my four children, ages 18 to 30 asking them to share from their childhood one memory they were most thankful for.   Their answers were “holiday traditions”, “family camping trips” and “kindness friends had extended in a time of unemployment”.   None mentioned gifts, clothing or dinners out.  They were most thankful for the times together as family and for the love shown to them in a time of need.

Learn to practice gratitude. Model thankfulness for your children.  Don’t stress yourself out with “stuff” because in the end their most thankful moments will be with you, just being family.

“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”     1 Thessalonians  5:16-18