Four Ways to Model Gratitude This Holiday Season

I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. And originally, when I considered writing about thankfulness, my mind zipped around in an idealistic Facebooky/Pinteresty sort of way: something organized, something that could involve my children, something they’d learn from, and something I could brag about explain on this blog and look like a hot shot and inspire people.

But . . . at the end of the day, as stewards of our own gratefulness and our children’s — it’s not that complicated.

Thanksgiving is not about making life perfect. It’s not about the perfect fall wreath or thankful posts on Facebook. It’s not about perfect table settings. It’s not even about Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I know, I know . . . this is really hard to wrap our minds around because a little bit IS about the PSL, but mostly not).

Thanksgiving, thankfulness, November reminds us about GRATITUDE.

And if we want grateful kids, we have to model it. And by model it, I mean LIVE IT!

Venezuela Dancing1. Remember that less is more. Years ago I went to Venezuela for a week as part of a medical mission. The people we served that week got all of their possessions from a trash dump. When you go to a third world country, the tendency is to think “I’m here to SERVE!” But what I learned from those people was far greater than what I provided (which was just some janky face paint, let’s be honest). These precious people with nothing modeled gratitude to U.S. wealthy Americans. Imagine that! They sat on meager lean-to porches at night with one another, and though they had “nothing,” they were happier and more grateful than anyone I have ever met in the States.

And, I think it’s because stuff will never make us happy, no matter how old or how young. Nothing fills the voids in our lives like relationships.

How can we model to our children (especially as they get older) that STUFF is not what makes us content, if we are obsessed with our grownup toys? When we can center our hearts on the truth of what really makes us content, then we can begin to teach our children to be grateful for what they do have: family, health, homes, warm beds, safety.

2. Turn it off. Everyone is different. We all have triggers that lead toward jealousy or envy. Honestly, for me it is often TV, especially fixer upper type shows. (Oh man, Joanna Gaines come to my HOUSE!!!) For you it may be too much time on Pinterest with all the beautiful clothing pins. It may be Facebook or Instagram and everyone else’s perfect seeming lives. It may be Etsy and stuff you want but can’t afford. Or it might be fashion magazines that make you discontent with your body. For my five year old, it’s 100 percent insidious commercials on Nick Jr. aimed to make her think she needs absolutely every piece of Frozen paraphernalia ever created. And while none of this stuff is bad in and of itself (save kid commercials), it is helpful to identify the thing that sends us down the mental path of discontentment and then take a break from it. Living in the throws of “gimme’s” can be a lonely, hopeless, and expensive place to stay.

DSC_09083. Combat discontentment with thankfulness. It’s so simple, but so hard all at the same time. We try to start and end each day with gratefulness. Nothing is too trite or too extravagant. In the car every morning, we do something like this: I’m grateful for sunshine. I’m grateful for family. I’m thankful for my hair bow. I’m grateful for My Little Pony. When we start to replace the “I wishes,” with “thank yous,” it is amazing how quickly our perspective can change. (By the way, this is applicable to our children and spouses as well!) You can start by simply writing down the little things or practice saying them aloud. Once you start being intentionally grateful, it’s hard to stop.

4. Give back. Have you ever noticed, that giving helps foster gratefulness and contentment? I don’t really understand this and there is no scientific law to explain it. But, when we give of our time, or money, or resources: a visit with your elderly neighbor, a free drink for the person behind you at Starbucks, a coat for a needy child, we grow in contentment and even gratitude. I am convinced our lives here are about relationships and blessing others is a huge part of that. I’m not all the way there yet. I’m often introverted and selfish and turned inward. But those times when I’ve modeled this kind of living, my children have easily and naturally followed suit.

This holiday season how are you teaching and modeling thankfulness?

Anna is wife to Matt and mom to two little ladies: Charlie and Georgia, and dog mom to the best dog ever, Attie, and the worst little Beagle ever, Toby. Besides chasing around her girls full time, Anna spends her spare time running her business, Fit4Mom SW Fort Worth. And can be found enjoying British TV, dark chocolate, and a good cup of coffee with her husband.


  1. For as long as I’ve been driving, I’ve had the rule that if I pull up to a red light and see a homeless person, I will offer them whatever food or drink I have. When my first was born, I often used him as an excuse to avoid this (I.e. Safety, blah blah blah). The other morning we saw a man at a light with a sign asking for “help”, not food or money, just help. So I fiddled frantically through my bag knowing certainly I have a snack. I found the one treasured kids clif bar that we had. Later when my son realized I had given away his only cereal bar he became upset. I had the opportunity to share with him that we could go home or to the store and buy more cereal bars but that man might not have that luxury. I’m not sure how much of his 3 year old brain comprehended but he calmed down and was at peace. It was a beautiful (and honestly, emotional) moment for me to share with him.

    • Oh and we also have a child that we support through Compassion International whose picture we keep up on our refrigerator. I could do a better job of explaining Saitoti to Elijah but we’ve talked about him and prayed for him several times.


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