I’m not sure how I missed this in the list of things to teach toddlers…
- they learned to feed and dress themselves
- they learned how to jump and run
- they can sing their ABC’s and count to 100
- they know how to color and create
But somehow I neglected to teach them how to say, ‘thank you.’ Now, at the ripe old ages of 4 and 3, it seems you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Just in case you’ve done the opposite and feel a bit annoyed with your child’s constant ‘thank you’s,’ here are 5 ways to put an end to all that gratitude. I’m still not certain how to create a grateful child, but the past few years have at least tutored me in ways to make the opposite a reality.
1 Make sure and give them exactly what they want exactly when they want it. It seems counter-intuitive, but the best way to ensure thanklessness is to always meet my child’s desires right on time. Surprisingly, my children seem the most grateful when they’ve learned to deal with the word ‘no’ or been required to wait (a bit) before their requests are granted.
2 Surround them with peers who have as much or more than they do. When I neglect to expose my children through friendships and ministry opportunities, books and media to the truth that the majority of the world has less than we do, they can start to feel neglected. Suddenly, they’re the only ones who have less, don’t have what she has, NEED the thing that he’s got. Instead of being stuffed with gratitude, this lack of exposure makes us full of envy, imagining the whole world’s got all that we don’t.
3 Never talk about sin and what we all really deserve. Perhaps the toy aisle at the grocery store is not the best place to tell your child that he’s a sinner. But if we never find the right place to talk about sin and its wages, then we just end up with kids who feel they’ve got rights to just about everything. Gratitude only rises up when we know we’re holding something we don’t deserve.
4 Never surprise them with gifts and treats ‘just because;’ instead make sure they earn their rewards. We enjoy treating our kids for their memory work and their reading lessons and even for good behavior. And while those rewards can teach lessons themselves, it’s the ‘just because’ treats that seem to surprise the kids and result in greater thankfulness.
5 Don’t ever make anything or create a handmade version of something your child desires. I believe I read this from Soule Mama, regarding her book, Handmade Home. She explained that when children work to make things by hand, they appreciate them more. It’s the times I just buy something off the shelf that the item finds its way to the bottom of the toy bin most quickly. But the cardboard parking garage, paper mache doll house, cardboard pets and cars…the ones we work hard on together seem to create the greatest gratitude.
Seeing the ways I’ve messed up these lessons of gratitude, it seems the one who needs to learn thankfulness is me. Like all parts of Christ’s character, thankfulness is caught not taught. Perhaps the best way to raise ungrateful children is to never let them catch me in the act of saying, ‘thank you.’ If I want my children to grow in gratefulness, it’s me that’s got to grow in Christ.
If you’re tired of hearing your kids say, ‘thank you,’ then make sure they don’t hear you being grateful either. And if you prefer an ungrateful child, steer them clear of Christ-the One who said thanks even as He gave the greatest gift of all.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7