Practicing Gratitude

It’s a fact that practicing gratitude is good for our overall health and developing a more positive outlook on life. My Christian faith has greatly influenced my views on practicing gratitude, and although I don’t all have it down perfectly, it is something that I try to constantly grow in and model to my children. Here are some of my favorite passages from the Bible that reveal the significance of having a grateful heart and mindset:

  • Now our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 1 Chronicles 29:13
  • I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your deeds. Psalm 9:1
  • Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” John 11:41
  • And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
  • Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As our family practices gratitude, we found an exceptional book that can be used in all families and classrooms, regardless of faith background. It is called Giving Thanks! More Than 100 Ways to Say Thank You by Ellen Surrey. The book gives prompts to help you and your child/student think of various areas of life in which they can express gratitude.

Please feel free to leave a comment sharing something that you are thankful for today!

For more reading and activities, check out my post Helping Children Cultivate Thankful Hearts.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • For one week, take a prompt from the book and go around the table at mealtime to allow each family member to share their response.
  • Select some of your favorite prompts from the book and with your child, write responses on slips of brightly colored paper. Staple or tape the strips of paper to make a paper link chain. Hang in your child’s bedroom as a visual reminder of all that you are thankful for!
  • If you are a Christian family, take one evening this week to write down a list of what you are thankful for. (This could be incorporated in a devotional or prayer time.) Then use that list to pray together as a family. Hang the list in a prominent place to reflect on throughout the rest of the week.

For Teachers:

  • Use as a journal prompt each morning for a week – or incorporate into morning work or circle time.
  • Have students work together in small groups to make posters of thanksgiving.
  • Write a note to someone you are thankful for – a family member, neighbor, friend or someone in the school. Use this as an opportunity to teach the skill of writing a letter. If desired, allow students to address and mail letters!


Helping Children Cultivate Thankful Hearts

How many times do you remind your child to say thank you? When spoken with sincerity, these simple words can be so sweet to the spirit. But oftentimes our children or our students – even we ourselves – forget to say thank you.

Luke 6:45 reminds me, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

You see, if our children aren’t expressing thankfulness (or we aren’t), the root cause may not be poor manners but the deeper reality that in our hearts, we aren’t very thankful. Perhaps we’re too busy to give thanks or too focused on what we want and don’t have or think we are somehow owed the good things that we have. In any scenario, the condition of our hearts matter because that is what truly motivates what comes out of our mouths. And any parent or teacher who ever said, “Say it like you mean it!” instinctively knows this.

So how do we change this lack of thankfulness in our hearts, and subsequently, in our attitudes and words? The starting place is to choose to be thankful. Make a habit of looking for things that you are thankful for and express your thankfulness inwardly and outwardly. If this is hard for you, try to write down ten things you are thankful for each day in a journal or on a computer document. Then try to articulate those things aloud to family members, friends, co-workers or neighbors.

I’m thankful for these smiles …and Shout stain remover to take out chocolate ice cream stains 😉

Each day I choose to cultivate thankful heart, I experience great personal joy and witness firsthand how it naturally overflows into my children’s lives. They begin to mimic my behavior, speech and attitude. This is true for teachers, too! When I taught professionally, I noticed how much my demeanor influenced the culture of my classroom and my students’ attitudes.

For a wonderful book that will help your family or classroom cultivate thankful hearts, I recommend the book Thank You for Me by Marion Dane Bauer. The warm illustrations highlight the message that there are many things in life for which we can be thankful. My daughters liked adding their own impromptu “thanks” as we read together.

Before you leave this page, please share your thoughts or experiences on cultivating thankfulness in your child’s heart. 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • With your child, write out a list of 10 things for which you are thankful. Hang this list on your fridge where you will see it often and be reminded to have a thankful heart.
  • Thank You for Me draws on our 5 senses (touch, smell, hear, taste, see). Remind your child of these senses. Then choose one of the five senses to focus on for a short time today. Practice expressing thanks for that sense and what it allows you to experience. (“I’m thankful for my ears that can hear the car beep as we drive to the store!” or “I’m thankful my eyes can see the beautiful drawing you gave me just now.”)
  • Write a card, send an email or text someone you to whom would like to say “thank you.”

For Teachers:

  • Make a thankful hearts jar. During morning meeting, hand out small paper hearts to 5 students. Ask them to share one thing they are thankful for today. Then put the hearts in the jar and see how quickly your class can fill it up!
  • Print out a list of your student names and place them on your desk, a clipboard or binder. Over the next few days, try to thank each student in your room for something specific. Cross off the names as you go. Reflect on which students it comes more naturally for you to thank and which students you have a harder time thanking.
  • Think of another staff member or a parent helper to whom you can express genuine thanks. Write that person a personal note or email this week.

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