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    by Mike McHugh

Training Children To Be Thankful
Date Posted: September 11, 2008

As a home school parent, I occasionally contemplate the type of calling that God may have for each of my children as they move into adulthood. For the most part, this contemplation is an exercise that underscores the biblical truth that we all see through a glass darkly as we ponder the mysteries of God’s providence. Although it is often difficult for me to know precisely which areas of knowledge will be most profitable to my children after their school years are done, I have discovered that I can always rally around the truth that “godliness is profitable in all things.” One of the key things, therefore, that I can be confident that my children will need in order for them to excel in their God-given callings is a spirit of thankfulness.

It is my firmest conviction as a parent that Almighty God resists the proud, but gives grace to those with a humble and grateful heart attitude. If I succeed as a home educator in providing my children with a superior education, yet neglect to cultivate in them godly character traits, I have accomplished little. Laboring to cultivate a spirit of genuine thankfulness in the hearts of my children, through a diligent study of the Scriptures and by way of personal example, must be recognized for what it is --- a critically important priority of every parent. Consider, if you will, what the Word of God states in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Colossians 3:15 adds, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

For those parents that are committed to raising children with thankful hearts, the following suggestions may prove helpful:

  1. Establish meaningful traditions in your home that set aside specific time for giving thanks to God. One of the most common and biblical traditions in this regard is for families to lift up a prayer of thanks before each meal. If you already pray regularly as a family before each meal, do not let this godly tradition lapse. If you seldom pray a prayer of thanks before meals, begin to establish this biblical tradition right away until it becomes a part of your family routine. (Note Matthew 15:32-36,26:26-30, Acts 27:33-35)

  2. Set aside time for praise and thanksgiving to the Lord during your family devotions. Encourage each member of the family to make mention of specific things for which they are thankful as they worship each day with the family. Include songs of praise and thanksgiving during family worship times as well.

  3. As a special family project, write out a personalized charter of thanksgiving in which each member pledges to be committed to praising the Lord in hard times, as well as in times of ease. Read Ephesians 5:20 and Romans 8:28 before you begin. Another option is for each family member to write “thank you” letters to individuals who have done some act of kindness toward them.

  4. Have your family study Romans 1:16-21, and talk about the importance of biblical faith to the fulfilling of God’s call to be thankful. The key point for parents to emphasize is that Christians must be thankful for who God is, and not merely for what he gives us. Our attitude of gratitude, in other words, should not fluctuate based upon the perceived quality or quantity of blessings that we have at a given moment.

  5. The old saying, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, is really quite true. One of the best methods parents can use to help their children appreciate what they have been given by their Maker, involves the act of subtraction. Parents should encourage their children to make a list of each of the blessings that they enjoy every day, then have them, one-by-one, subtract these gifts. If the children are being thoughtful and diligent in trying to remove each of the blessings that they currently enjoy, they will soon become weary in the process and realize that they have much to be thankful for after all!

  6. Do a unit study together as a family on the Pilgrims and Puritans of New England, as well as on the true history behind the holiday that we know as “Thanksgiving.” Contrary to the view of many secular historians, the original thanksgiving feast was held by the Pilgrims at Plymouth for the purpose of giving thanks to God, not the Indians. Your children need to know that the tradition of giving thanks to Almighty God is part of their Christian heritage.

  7. Read Psalm 6:5 to your children for it contains a valuable reminder for each member of your family; namely, that the time to praise and thank God is while we are still in the land of the living. Talk with your children about the dangers of assuming that some time in the future will provide a more convenient season during which to express gratefulness to our Maker, or to people who have blessed us.

  8. Read 1Thessalonians 1:2,1 Timothy 2:1-2 as a family, and encourage each person to testify to at least one thing that they are thankful for when it comes to other family members. According to Proverbs 31:28, a faithful mother should receive expressions of gratefulness from her children and husband on a regular basis. Also, remind children of their duty to give thanks for those in authority over them --- particularly for those who rule in a godly manner.

In addition to these specific suggestions, it should be emphasized that parents must strive to establish an atmosphere or lifestyle of thankfulness in their household. This means, among other things, that even the common dialog that takes place between family members must be sprinkled with expressions like “please” and “thank you”. A home that is graced with inhabitants that are committed to exercising the law of kindness, will be far more likely to cultivate an atmosphere where love and gratefulness can grow.

Christian parents may indeed be incapable of knowing many of the details of their children’s God-ordained destiny. This lack of knowledge may, in some respects, make it more challenging for moms and dads to know precisely what educational track would be most beneficial for their youngsters. The fact that the Lord has secret things that He in His infinite wisdom has not chosen to reveal, however, should not keep parents from providing their children with the instruction in righteousness that they so urgently need. Young people who have been given a solid academic foundation in their youth, will be able to readily overcome any weaknesses in their knowledge base during their early adult years. Students who fail to receive spiritual training in virtues such as thankfulness, however, will likely never reach their full potential as workers in Christ’s kingdom, even if they possess a thoroughly comprehensive education. Students who lack charity and an attitude of gratitude, are unprepared to be anything other than “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal” in the world in which they will some day journey. (1 Corinthians 13)

Copyright 2008 Michael J. McHugh

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Biography Information:
This column is written by the staff at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. As a pioneer in the homeschool movement, Christian Liberty ministries has been operating a full service, K-12 home school program for over thirty years and a Christian textbook ministry (Christian Liberty Press), since 1985. The mission of Christian Liberty is to provide parents with quality, affordable educational products and services that will enable them to teach their children in the home and to train their children to serve Christ in every area of life. A more extensive explanation of the CLASS home school program can be obtained at
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