We all want our children to have thankful and grateful hearts, but it is so hard to battle against selfishness. Focus on the Family gathered some ideas from different people, in order to give different ideas on how to teach kids to be thankful. Let’s be intentional in our parenting, and let’s work extra hard this season to teach our children how to be thankful.
Thank You Box
My kids used to complain about writing thank-you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. To make this a fun task instead of a chore, my husband and I filled a shoebox with many kinds of blank notes and inexpensive thank-you cards, along with crafting odds and ends. To motivate them to use these materials, they had to send their thank-you notes after opening their gifts but before playing with them. This helped them get right to the task.
Nurturing Thankful Hearts
Over the years, I’ve pushed and pestered my kids to appreciate all that God has given them, but my tactics were mostly unfruitful and frustrating. That all changed when I encouraged my kids to practice gratitude with a Blessings Book.
I folded five pieces of copy paper in half and put a folded piece of construction paper around them for a cover. Once I’d stapled the spine, my children were able to title and decorate it.
At least once a week, they made an entry, describing a blessing, an answered prayer, happy news or a fun activity. I was surprised at how quickly the book filled up. This simple activity helped my kids realize how blessed they are and cultivated thankful hearts.
Heart of Gratitude
Before my four daughters were old enough to write thank-you notes, I wanted to find another way for them to express gratitude. So I decorated a hanging wooden heart and wrote “thank you” in the middle. I explained that we would hang the heart on the bedroom door of any child caught doing good, as a reminder of our thankfulness for their decision. I was amazed how quickly the girls grasped the concept. The heart was soon making a daily trip around the house:
“Thank you, Sophia, for playing blocks with me.”
“Thank you, Alexa, for helping me pour milk on my cereal.”
“Thank you, Mom, for not getting mad when I was naughty.”
Each night we return the heart to its downstairs cupboard. One night before prayers, a daughter placed it on the shelf where we keep our Scriptures. “Thank You, God, for everything.”
My kids and I drive past a billboard for a local home builder every day. When we were in the process of buying a new home, that billboard became a regular reminder for us to pray about the process and ask for God’s guidance and help. After we bought the house and moved in, I realized that habit shouldn’t change just because our prayers had been answered. Now that same billboard acts as a “gratitude trigger.” It reminds us how much we have to be thankful for. When we see it, we thank God not only for our new home, but for the many other blessings He’s given us, as well. Ask your kids to help select things you encounter in everyday life that can become gratitude triggers for your family. Anything from a red light, to a certain road sign, to a barking dog or a particular song on the radio can serve as a reminder to give thanks to God.
A Lesson in Gratitude
When my family shops for school supplies, we buy an extra backpack and fill it with supplies for a child in need. We pray for the student receiving it, put in a special note and then drop it off at a local charity that is collecting back-to-school donations. My son loves doing this, and it helps him understand how blessed he is.
Make it a point to express gratitude in the presence of your toddlers. You might say, “Thank You, Jesus, for the beautiful fall colors — the red and yellow and purple leaves.” Or while you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store say, “Thanks, Jesus, that we can buy this yummy food.” In this way, they’re recognizing that Jesus is involved in the details around them. Children will learn from your simple behavior to be thankful to Jesus for His daily care and provision.
I don’t know about you, but I know sometimes it is a challenge to get devotion time in with my kids. I found this to be a really neat tool, and so I thought I would share. It comes from Focus on the Family’s website:
Researchers affirm what Christian families have known intuitively for years: families that eat together, pray together and play together are stronger. But today’s crazy schedules and priorities are making it more difficult to make every day count, even in the simplest ways.
That’s why we’re excited to make it easier for you to invest a bit of time each week on family devotions. We have compiled 52 weekly devotions for the coming year that you can start anytime. Each contains faith-affirming biblical principles that will help you do what no one else in this world will ever do as well as you: help build a lasting, thriving faith in God into your child’s heart.
Click here to get 52 devotions that you can do with your kids!
Bunny Rabbits, Eggs, and Easter Lillie are all symbols that represent Easter! But, why? My daughter is always asking me tough questions like these, and because I want to keep Jesus the center or our Easter, I went out and did a little research. I found this really awesome blog that a Christian mom wrote, and so I want to share it with you. This mom has done the research, and what she found is perfect!
The tradition of Easter eggs is almost certainly associated with the practice of Lent — a period of preparation for Easter that includes 40 days of abstinence (designed to imitate Jesus’ forty day fast in the desert, Matthew 4:1-11).
By the 4th century, Christians had begun the practice of Lent, and in 692, the Council in Trullo (a church council held in Constantinople) gave the following instructions:
“It seems good therefore that the whole Church of God which is in all the world should follow one rule and keep the fast perfectly, and as they abstain from everything which is killed, so also should they from eggs and cheese, which are the fruit and produce of those animals from which we abstain.”
Scholar Anthony McRoy notes, “In pre-refrigeration days, it would be difficult to preserve milk and meat products until Easter, but the same was not true of eggs. Eggs, which unlike other foods do not perish quickly, were therefore a natural way to break the fast on Easter Sunday” (How The Fast of Lent Gave Us Easter Eggs).
Eggs also offered the additional benefit of serving as the perfect symbol for the “hope of new life” — a hope made possible for all believers through the resurrection of Christ.
Naturally, eggs became the focus of games and activities like egg hunts and egg coloring.
Among Orthodox believers, eggs were often colored red to symbolize Christ’s blood that was spilled to give us new life.
However, in the U.S., it is more common to see a variety of colors (usually pastels) symbolizing the many colors of “new life” that come into bloom in the spring.
The term Easter probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for April, Eosturmonath, which likely meant “the month of opening” –the season when the buds open and a time that Christians can reflect on the tomb that opened!
What magnificent timing the Lord chose for his resurrection, when so much of the earth is literally “singing” of new life and bursting into color. It is lovely that Easter is celebrated with such a variety of colors, particularly pastels.
There is a practice in many liturgical Christian churches to use specific colors as visual symbols of the Lenten journey:
Purple, a symbol of repentance, is typically associated with Lent;
black with the darkness of Good Friday (and the hours leading up to Easter morning);
and white and gold with the 50 days of Easter (Easter morning to Pentecost).
Throughout the Bible, whitesymbolizes purity, and throughout the history of the church, baptisms traditionally took place on Easter Sunday with candidates wearing white as a symbol of their new life in Christ.
The color gold is indicative of the riches of our inheritance in Christ and His kingdom, our eternal home, where the New Jerusalem is made “of pure gold” (Revelation 21:18).
Throughout the world, a variety of imaginative tales have developed to explain to children how eggs “appear” on Easter morning. Often the tales involve animals that are personified in one sense or another.
The first recorded evidence of an Easter bunny (or hare) was in a book called De Ovis Paschalibus (About the Easter Egg) by Georg Franck von Frankenau (1643-1704) in which he recorded that the tradition existed in Alsace (a region in modern day France that was previously populated by Germans).
The tradition was probably brought to America by German immigrants, along with the practice of setting out hats and bonnets in the hope that the Easter bunny would leave eggs for Easter morning (a precursor to the modern Easter basket).
Furthermore, there is a diverse assortment of animals that are said to deliver eggs in other countries. For example, in Switzerland, a cuckoo delivers eggs, and in Westphalia (a region in Germany), it is a fox. The personification of animals has been a favorite subject for children over many centuries.
There is no clear evidence, by the way, to suggest that the symbol of the bunny was borrowed from paganism (as is often claimed).
In fact, some Christians find that the Easter bunny is a particularly good choice as a “mascot” of Easter.
Since bunnies emerge from their underground burrows, they can serve as a symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ as he emerges from his tomb on Easter Sunday.
I love this!!
Flowers are also a big part of Easter.
Why do we display certain flowers, such as Easter Lilies, during the Easter celebration?
Easter Symbols: Easter Lily
Among all the blooming flowers of spring, one flower in particular has earned a place as the symbolic flower of Easter – the lily.
Since lilies grow from a bulb that is buried and then blooms into life, it is a beautiful representation of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, the trumpet shaped blooms of lilieshave been likened to the trumpets of angels that herald significant events.
Lilies announce not only the arrival of spring, but the greatest event in Christian history–the resurrection of Christ!
Lastly, and most importantly, is the symbol of the cross.
It seems strange to many people that Christians cherish a symbol of the instrument on which Jesus died.
For believers, however, the cross symbolizes the profound depth of God’s love – that he would send his only Son to die for our sins. Because of the cross, we are forgiven for our sins, we are adopted as sons, and we are promised eternal life with God.
The cross is a reminder, not of defeat, but of victory–victory over death.
We can embrace the cross as an “instrument of death” because death has lost its sting. For “by his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also!” (1 Corinthians 6:14).
So, you are now prepared to tell your children all about the Easter symbols. Make sure to visit this moms website, as she does a phenomenal job keeping Christ the center of all the holidays.
I have been faced with this issue several times as a parent, and I found this article by donotdepart.com to be helpful.
It’s hard to be little. The world can be a scary place even when all seems well to the adults. And lately even most adults I know do not feel like all is well.
It is so important that we take a Word-based approach when our children fear, because a world-based approach will always disappoint. It would be lying to tell my child that there is nothing to fear. From a purely worldly perspective, my kids’ lives are fraught with dangers, many of which we don’t even contemplate (driven a car lately?)
But I can tell my child not to fear because of who he is in Christ. Because of Who God is. The power of scripture to combat fear is supernatural. God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit!
Here is some scripture that we can teach our kids about fear:
“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:4
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19 (niv)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
Five Word-based ideas for when your child is afraid.
1) Teach children to praise God
Praising God in every circumstance instantly turns our attention off of ourselves and our fears, and onto the only solid and reliable One upon whom we can count. Praise God for Who He is, and for how much He loves us!
“Through (Jesus) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Hebrews 13:15
2) Play scripture out loud
When there is a chronic fear hanging heavy in your home, filling the air with scripture can work wonders for restoring peace. Even now I sometimes find myself needing to bathe my mind in scripture as I fall asleep.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
3) Help children memorize scriptures
The bible directs us to teach our children the scriptures!
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
You can teach your children some of the specific verses related to fear listed above, but even having basic verses memorized will be a powerful tool in their arsenal against fear! Our summer Hide His Word challenge will be reviewing basic scriptures for believers. If you or your children have never memorized before, why not sign up and start hiding His Word in your heart this summer?
It’s important to understand that the Word of God is the only offensive piece of our spiritual armor, the rest is defensive. The Word is even called the sword of the Spirit. Our children need to know and be ready to wield this holy sword!
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
4) Post scriptures around the house
The bathroom mirror and the kitchen windowsill seem to be our two favorite places to post scripture. We spend a lot of time at sinks, apparently! You can put up verses applicable to your child’s current struggle, or a general verse. Try taping printed scripture to the mirror, or for fun, write the verse directly on the mirror with a dry-erase or wet-erase marker!
There are also many beautiful, scripture-based home decorations available.
“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:9
5) Sing scripture songs that deal with fear and courage
Music makes such an impact on kids. On adults too! More than once a scripture has wafted in song out of the car speaker right into this weary mama’s heart and given me strength!
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1
The Seeds Family Worship songs are great. There is lots of other recorded scripture music for kids available. And many old hymns are scripturally based.
If you don’t know a song for the verse you want your children to memorize, use a familiar kids’ tune! Julie explains how in “Truth for Kids to Tunes We Know”
However you go about it, helping your kids stay in God’s Word will combat fears of all sizes!
This article was written by and can be found in full at http://donotdepart.com/helping-children-who-fear-5-bible-based-tips
What are some ways you teach your kids to show love?
This month is the perfect month to share with your children different ways to show love. Focus on the Family posted these great tips, on how to show love.
When my children were little, I’d have them make Valentine’s Day cards out of paper and craft supplies. Then we’d mail them to those who might be overlooked — widows and widowers who were facing their first Valentine’s Day without their spouse, or friends who had recently endured a rough divorce. Then all year, whenever my children complained that they were bored, I’d have them make similar cards that we’d send as encouragement to missionaries.
Love in Action
During February, my family looks for “love acts.” When I see my 4-year-old do something well, I say, “Wesley, you obeyed the first time I asked. When we obey God the first time, that shows Him we love Him. Way to go!” This helps Wesley hear the connection between loving God and obeying Him.
These love acts can also be done toward each other. For example, I explain to my kids that doing chores demonstrates love for the rest of the family. When we describe love in actions, we help our children begin to understand how real love is shown through more than just our words.
My husband and I purchased a small mailbox for Valentine’s Day. Each morning in February, we placed a note and a small treat in it for our son. Grammie and Grandpa were even able to get in on it and contributed a note, as well. Our son loved it! He jumped out of bed to see what was in his mailbox each day. Our notes, which often included Bible verses, told him how much we loved him, but also how much God loved him and how special God made him. (You can make your own mailbox and notes for your children in this download.)
Show Love to Others
To help our children, ages 7 and 4, understand that all people are valuable, especially in God’s eyes, I planned a simple event for our family. We began with “Love Bingo” — using homemade bingo cards with a characteristic of love (as described in 1 Corinthians 13) written into each block. I called out the characteristics and my husband helped the girls mark their cards. I took time to explain how God loves us and expects us to love others and treat them with dignity.
After our game, we prayed that God would make us aware of a need so we could show His love to someone. We noticed a homeless gentleman on our way to buy pizza. After we ordered what we needed, we purchased a pizza and drink for him. My oldest daughter wrote “God loves you” on the box before my husband handed over the food.
Though our gesture didn’t significantly alter this man’s plight, it did help our young daughters understand that God desires for us to share what we have with others.
Print out Love Bingo cards and calling cards to use with your kids.
A New Focus for Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is all about romantic love and celebrating with your “special someone.” But as our daughter gets older, we want to help her focus less on the boy in the third row at school and more on the long-lasting relationships in her life that show her she is accepted and special.
So we’ve made it a Valentine’s Day tradition to create and deliver gift boxes filled with chocolate-covered strawberries.
As we hand-dip the strawberries, we talk about the important friendships in our lives and the joy we get from giving love to others. Later, we personally deliver the treats to close family friends. This fun tradition gives our daughter a sense of belonging among a community whose love lasts long past the February holiday.
Creative Valentine Cards for Kids
For Valentine’s Day, I helped my kids use candy hearts to create personalized messages for classmates, friends and loved ones. We cut red and pink paper hearts, glued on candy conversation hearts, then added words to make more meaningful and age-appropriate messages. Here are a few:
I LOVE YOUr heart for God!
I have JUST ONE thing to say: Jesus loves you!
It’s SO COOL that God gave me you as a friend!
I DARE YA to sit by me at lunch! I’ll make a spot for you.
I’M SURE glad you are my little sister!
A Valentine’s Day Tradition
I set up a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt for my 4- and 2-year-old. Each clue pertained to our home or things that we’d been reading about. The answers were locations. For example: “If what you want the most is to turn bread into toast, you use this.” Or “Mr. Tumnus thought Lucy was from Spare Oom. Where is our Spare Room?”
I directed the girls to the first clue. They joyfully found each clue, asked for it to be read and then went off in search of the next. The end of their adventure revealed a hidden trove of special treats.
The following year, when we changed our calendar to February, the immediate question was, “Will we have a treasure hunt again?”
Preschool teacher calls home on several occasions concerned about your child’s behavior
Extended family members tell you that you have a lot of patience with your kids
A new church you visited calls you and tells you that they don’t have any room for your 2 year old
A friend tells you
Well, I wish I could say I got the message above when it happened to me but to be honest, I really didn’t see it. We were brand new Christians when we moved to Georgia and finally found MHCC (formerly called The Church @ West Cobb) it was definitely a “God directed appointment.” After another church that we were visiting handed me my two year old and said they didn’t have any room left, (she was quite a handful!) I knew we needed to find a different church. And this church was offering a parenting class which was suggested that we look into it! It may have been offered just because of us, I’ll never know, but I’m eternally grateful for it.
A little history before I get started. When MHCC was launching a bunch of small groups they were encouraging everyone to plug into one of them and get connected. I really wanted to do a marriage bible study but my husband wanted to do a parenting bible study. We had a very “child focused” home and I thought our marriage could use some attention. However, I let my husband decide since I was so grateful we were doing something together! One of the first lessons we learned in good parenting was…..put your marriage first ☺ Isn’t God good! If you’re looking for more on marriage, check out the marriage blog!
Our parenting Bible Study was based on the book called, Love Them, Discipline Them by Betty N. Chase and of course, the Bible. In the very first week my husband and I had learned so much and realized that we had not been doing or known to do any of the suggested parenting tools that were based on biblical principles in the 10 years since we had become parents. I was devastated and with that, and I started to cry in front of everyone because I thought it was too late. I was quickly comforted by all the members of the small group and I distinctly remember one Dad telling me it’s never too late with God and that God will meet us where we are and He will help us. And that, He did indeed!
Consistent discipline is biblical, necessary and a gift to you and your children! The form of discipline may vary from child to child and age of the child, however don’t neglect God’s wisdom in the Proverbs. Proverbs 13:24 he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. Proverbs 22:6 train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you stay in control and have the upper hand.
Daddy & Mommy are always united (at least in front of the children) If one parent says “yes” and the other says “no” then you will have chaos. Always be united in front of the kids and discuss the differences later in private.
Maintain a schedule/routine and stick with it! Children thrive with structure and a daily routine i.e. dinner, bath, bed (bedtime is very important, it requires a lot of follow through and hard work on the parents end, but it is necessary for good health and good behavior. Once a routine is established, it won’t be so difficult to follow and eventually they will automatically comply.
There are 3 basic areas that require discipline –if the child’s behavior falls under this umbrella of behavior it must be addressed every time.
Don’t let any of these behaviors go undisciplined. The earlier you start with your children the easier it is for you as they get older. The more consistent you are with following through, the easier your life will be. It’s tiring and you will be tested, but persevere and don’t give up, because the prize awaits you and is worth it!
Jesus tells us a story that is found in Luke 10: 38-41. It is about two sisters named Martha and Mary. Martha was so busy getting the preparations done because Jesus and his disciples were staying at their house. Mary, Martha’s sister, was not helping her but rather sitting and listening to Jesus. Martha was upset with Mary for not helping and asked Jesus to please say something to Mary. But Jesus defended Mary and said “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Years ago, as a new believer and a mother of four young children 9, 7, 5, & 2, I was knee deep and overwhelmed in “mommy” stuff. I was flooded with laundry, dishes, housework, toys, homework, soccer, dance, basketball, doctors, dentists and orthodontist appointments. There seemed to be no extra time to spend with God and I felt guilty if I did because there was so much work to be done.
But then I received the absolute best parenting advice from a dear friend of mine MHCC and that was to “Put God First!” Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Mary put God first, and Jesus said that is the best way.
So, on that first morning, not setting an alarm clock, somehow my eyes opened at 6:33 and I immediately was reminded by the Holy Spirit to seek first the kingdom of God! I very quietly, got up, before the kids and made some coffee and spent 10-15 minutes with God. The morning was so calm and quiet. I could really focus on reading His Word and praying to Him and what an amazing gift that was! My day went so well that I knew it was God. He was revealing to me that He is faithful to His word! I was in utter amazement of the amount of work I was able to accomplish and the smoothness of the day. He ordered my steps, He made a way! By me being like Mary and making God my priority, I could then be Martha and get the work done! That was proof enough for me to continue this day after day. In fact, I so enjoyed my quiet time with God that I would awaken earlier so I could spend more time with Him.
Try it for yourself! Awaken before the kids and the chaos to spend 10-15 minutes with God and read His word and pray to Him. Share your worries and concerns with Him. Pray for you and your kiddos. Ask for help. Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him for God is our refuge.