How many times have you heard yourself saying this to your child: “Please say ‘thank you’ for that special treat,” “How do we ask for a drink of water?”, and “Remember to use your manners…”?
As parents, and especially mothers, we can easily become frustrated by the lack of gratitude and appreciation our children seem to demonstrate.
The definition of nurture is to give tender care and protection and to encourage to grow, develop, thrive and be successful. As women and mothers, we are called to nurture our children, husbands, friends and family members.
Research indicates that adults who are grateful report having more energy, fewer health problems, and a greater feeling of well-being than those who complain. The same holds true for children. Kids who express gratitude tend to be more appreciative, more empathetic, kinder, more enthusiastic and generally happier. Grateful children look outside themselves and understand others have needs as well. They are typically more polite, usually better behaved and more pleasant to be around. Conversely, kids who are not taught gratitude are constantly disappointed and fight feelings of entitlement and resentment. They struggle with feelings that nothing will ever be good enough for them.
As mothers, we must awaken ourselves to the need to make “heart connections” with our children. These bonds will help them find security with love and safety. We must help them find their own God-given purpose and greatness in this world.
Here are some practical ways to nurture a heart of gratitude in our children:
Teach, Model & Encourage your children daily. We must exemplify lives of gratitude if we really want our children to learn gratitude. This means they need to see us taking care of others, including our spouses, writing thank you notes, saying “please” and “thank you”, and showing empathy. This also means we need to complain and criticize less, and strive to point out the positives, not the negatives, in situations and in people.
We need to refrain from complaining about our children, our spouses, our bosses, our parents, and our in-laws. Instead, tell them how grateful we are for them.
We need to show gratitude for adversity too. Remember, children will, for the most part, do what their parents do – they learn what they live. We are models for them, so gratitude must start with us.
Provide your family with opportunities to help and serve others. Partner with a charity, a church or other organization where you can utilize your gifts to serve others. Start by encouraging your children to find someone they can help or a local place to serve a few times a year. They will learn by example. The goal is to give them “grateful eyes” so they become mindful of the needs of others rather than having to be told. You don’t have to go around the world to do Mission Work – there are plenty of opportunities in your own backyard!
Give your children responsibility. We are always more grateful for things when we have to do them ourselves. The same applies to children. Give them responsibilities, and hold them accountable. They will realize the effort and energy required to accomplish them, and become more grateful for the people who do things for them.
Limit what you give them. The more they have the less they will appreciate it. When milk goes bad, we call it spoiled. What happens when kids are overindulged? Enough said!
Encourage sharing and taking care of what you have. Selfishness is natural but sharing is a learned behavior. Sharing can be a lot of fun!
Appeal to their spirit and not their behaviors. Help them to be sensitive to right versus wrong and heighten their sense of awareness.
A life without gratitude and connections will lead to self-centeredness, self- focus and disconnectedness. It’s not a pretty picture. So, nurture their young hearts, model what you preach, and be who and what you say you are. Because children believe what they see. You have the biggest influence in their lives and you can push them to go beyond their natural boundaries!
Every day is a gift and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. We are all meant to shine and each one of us has the potential to carry God’s Glory!
“Once you begin to acknowledge random acts of kindness, both the ones you have received and the ones you have given, you can no longer believe that what you do does not matter.” – Dawna Markova
Tracie Nolde lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband, Jeff, and their three children, Camden, Chase and Kennedy.