Guest commentary by Emmanuel O. Afolabi
Happiness is not found in acquiring “more,” but in being more thankful for what we’ve already been given.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 encourages us: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Life is full of ups and downs, and all – including little children – are susceptible to these checkered experiences. In whatever circumstances of life we find ourselves, we must learn to show gratitude to God for God’s benevolence.
Good manners and gratitude go hand in hand. Of course, no parent wants to raise thoughtless kids. Of course I want our kids to be well-behaved, appreciative and courteous to others. But how do you raise a child to recognize that everything she is and everything she has is a gift from God?
God exhorts us to give thanks in all circumstances, not because God needs to hear “thank you,” but because God knows that thankfulness changes the trajectory of our hearts. However, the human tendency,
especially in a child, is to look at everything we don’t have and demand “more” to be happy – when, ironically, happiness is not found in acquiring more but in being more thankful for what we’ve already
Learning appreciation is an evolving, complicated process for kids and their parents. I’ve heard someone say: “There’s a difference between encouraging thankfulness in your kids and actually expecting it. Raising a grateful child is an ongoing process.” As with all developmental traits, the age at which a sense of gratitude appears will vary from child to child, and some children take longer than others to grow in gratitude.
We can set a good example by saying “thank you” sincerely and often. The values my children embrace as they get older aren’t those I’ve nagged them into learning, but the ones they see being lived out. There are
countless opportunities every day to model gratitude – thanking the restaurant server, the grocery store cashier, the bank teller. When kids see adults expressing sincere thanks all the time, they’ll be more inclined to do so as well.
Finally let us understand that thankfulness is not a weed that grows on its own; it’s more like a plant that must be cultivated in children. Do this with dexterity. Follow the example of Abraham who trained his children in the way of the Lord. (Genesis18:19), and God will bless our efforts. Always be thankful.
Emmanuel O. Afolabi is a teacher, blogger and author in Lagos, Nigeria.