How do we instill an attitude of gratitude in our younger generation? What values do we teach our kids? Having everything we desire does not necessarily prepare us for success in the real world. It’s a fine line between providing for our children’s needs, and creating a sense of entitlement.
According to Brett Ryan from Focus on the Family, the conversation about gratitude needs to start from an early age. He adds that youngsters typically assume money grows on trees and they will have all their wishes granted. Sadly, parents do this occasionally out of guilt.
“Sometimes parents do that because of other family issues,” says Brett. “For all intents and purposes, they are trying to buy their child’s love and affection. But we actually do our kids a great disservice by doing that. We have to be mindful of what we are role modelling for them.”
Brett believes that we need to teach children from a very early age how to be appreciative. The goal is for them to be able to say thank you without being prompted. We have a great opportunity to encourage those around us by not just thanking them for what they do, but for who they are.
“Our children will get that idea from us”, says Brett. “It’s not just about things, it’s about love and affection. These are things to be grateful for. Then as our kids get older, they won’t assume that the world revolves around them.”
Brett says that fostering an attitude of gratitude means that you think of others before yourself. It’s acknowledging the thought behind a particular gesture or gift, and showing appreciation for who that person is and what they mean to you. That’s the most important thing we can model.
“We have to work together as a team to make the household a haven,” says Brett. “There are things that need to be done, and if you do them quickly you can do something fun together as a reward. This helps motivate kids to want to contribute.”
The benefits of an attitude of gratitude are good for us physiologically. It lowers our blood pressure and increases our immunity. We also know that it improves our sleep. People who are constantly appreciative also have less injuries and stomach problems.
“All the evidence shows that it is beneficial for us as human beings,” says Brett. “It not only helps us physically, but relationally, emotionally and obviously for many of us spiritually. The Bible commands us to be thankful always.”
“Learning these principles at an early age obviously can set us up for the rest of our lives.”