Don’t Force Your Children to Be Grateful

Thankfulness is choked out of our children by us trying to “make them grateful.” This happened to me. I grew up being thankful, but then I felt forced to be thankful, and suddenly I wasn’t thankful any more, because I felt that the only reason the other person gave me something was for me to be grateful to them. Forget it. Don’t give me a present. Can’t you see I loved it? Why do I have to chant stupid words for people not to be upset and angry and threaten to never give me anything again? It makes me want to dump the thing on the floor and walk away. I do not feel loved by a person who demands thankfulness. I don’t. I feel that they’re in it for what they can get out of it.

This affected my relationship with God. I felt that relationships were an exchange where you now had to be grateful. And even though I had always been grateful for Christ’s death on the cross, I now saw Christ’s death as something He did so that we would be grateful, and if we weren’t grateful, we weren’t allowed to have a relationship with Him. It suddenly felt selfish on God’s side, and I knew this was a warped and demonic view caused by being forced to be thankful to have a relationship with another person. This view, by the way, is completely wrong. Christ didn’t die to make us grateful; He died to free us from sin. It wasn’t for anything He could get out of us. Christ died for us expecting nothing in return. Anything good in us is because of Him anyway, and our deep love for Him includes gratefulness, but it was never demanded. It was spontaneous due to love.

I wish the person could have seen my eyes, that I was truly grateful with all my heart before she demanded it, and that after demanding it, it was suddenly gone. In its place was the wrong feeling that the other person was selfish and demanding, and I wanted no part of it.

It took me years to get over it. Then gradually God gave me back my gratefulness, but it took a painful process. Now I’m more grateful than I’ve ever been in my life, but it’s because of the grace of God, God directly teaching me about it and convicting me and transforming me. Because the way I had been acting toward this other person had been sinful.

So how did I teach my own children to be thankful? Anyone who has been invited to my children’s birthday parties can attest to the fact that I have the most thankful children on the face of the earth. Yes, in third world countries you see children who are so extremely grateful, and they’ve never been taught gratefulness. My children are identical to that. They are so excited at anything that is given to them, even if it’s a cheap toy from the dollar store. They even say thank you, though I didn’t force them to do that. In good conscience, the only thing I could do is to thank the people myself when they gave my child a toy. I quietly thanked them, not for the sake of the child to hear. But when my children heard my real thankfulness, they emulated it and actually said it.

My children burst with thankfulness, but it’s not because I forced them to say it. It’s because I myself said thank you to the giver for the sake of the giver not being offended. I didn’t care whether my children said it or not because their whole body already indicated that they were grateful. And in being genuine in my speaking directly to the giver, my children now say thank you continuously, and it bursts out of their soul.

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One Response to “Don’t Force Your Children to Be Grateful”

  1. Ruth says:

    Hi! I keep seeing you over at Esther’s site, so I’m visiting… =)

    It’s true that our childhoods largely define who we are as adults! Keep up the good work with your kids. I’m glad you could instill gratefulness in them wihout cramming it down their throats. They sound like delightful children!

    Peace to you and your family…

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