How can you tell when you are lacking proper gratitude? It’s usually very easy to spot in others. For example, a little girl once visiting an adoring aunt was given a bright shiny new dime. She held it tightly in her little fist but remained silent. Her mother prodded her to respond appropriately, “What must you say to your Aunt Jane?” The little child thought for a brief second and blurted, “It’s not enough!” (adapted from Stories for Speakers and Writers, Baker).
Obviously, there was something missing in the little girl’s level of gratitude—although she definitely had an attitude!
We should see right away that we sometimes have stood in just such a similar place, clutching a blessing from the Lord and yet complaining that it was not enough.
If there is one thing I feel guilty of doing that may have hampered a correct development of a true attitude of gratitude in my children, it is that I gave them too much.
Doing without sometimes can be the best educational experience. I’m not just talking about material things, either. It is educational for a child to go without a parent’s prodding to get out of bed on their own, even if it means they will be late to class. The purchase of an alarm clock for their room is a great gift. It’s also educational for a child to go without a parent’s money when the child’s “I want this” spending has left them without funds for something very special that may appear in the last part of the month.
It is also often beneficial if a parent does not directly intercede in a problem the child may be encountering at school or with friends. This is, of course, not a problem which could cause physical harm to the child at an age when the child cannot cope with such a thing.
Holding back in certain situations is a monumental task for most parents. Good parents love their children and hate to see them unhappy, or feeling shame or despondency. A child’s character, however, can be slowed in its development if he learns to rely on his parents to bail him out. We want to instill a sense of responsibility when we require a child to be accountable for the consequences of his actions.
If we give our children the opportunity to discover the good things that come from being responsible, we will develop in them the attitudes they should have in their work, relationships, and other aspects of life.
As Thanksgiving season comes quickly upon us, we would do well to emulate the spirit of the Pilgrims. The story is told that before the Pilgrim’s Thanksgiving meal, just five kernels of corn were placed on each plate. This helped to remind everyone that the destitution of Plymouth Colony had once been of great magnitude. Whether this story is true or not, it reflects the attitude of the Pilgrims and should be a guide to us as well.
How thankful are you for where you and your family are today? How do you pass that on to your children…and even to friends you happen to share the holiday meal with? Maybe this year would be a great year for a new Thanksgiving tradition at the dinner table. What about passing out a bowl of corn with only enough in it to give a few kernels to each person at the table…first course of “Thankfulness” served to all? What conversation could begin at the table this year? Think about it.
by Cindy Best