Teaching Our Kids to Be Thankful

Yesterday I stopped into Meijer to grab my Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey was pardoned at our house this year, so I picked up ham, potatoes, corn and all the other traditional goodies to make our meal.
With a full cart I wheeled into the fastest lane. Yes, I pretend to live in a parallel universe where the lines are short and fast the week of Thanksgiving.

There were two people in front of me. A frazzled women with an overflowing cart full of groceries and clamoring children was at the register while an older man who had the face and the belly of a Grandpa stood between us. He looked remarkably like Santa Clause but he wore a black World War II baseball-style cap and there were no reindeer in sight.

The woman was a coupon-er. I am not a coupon-er but have the utmost respect for them. Unless they are in front of me in line. Then I have to wait while they finagle argue sort out their coupons with the cashier who is not conviced that they have all the correct sizes for the coupons in hand.

While I wait, I impatiently happily check my phone and catch up on the tweets I’ve missed. As the minutes tick by I search for anything written by Ann Voskamp because surely that will calm my nerves, quiet my heart and probably bring me to tears in front of God and everyone in Meijer.

But the sweet World War II veteran in front of me obviously doesn’t have an iphone or Ann Voskamp’s twitter name. He also seems to be shifting back and forth on his legs and his face shows the ache of many years and maybe a war or two.

He quietly slips out of the lane leaving his two items on the belt. He shuffles his feet to the other side of the store and settles on a hard wooden bench. He looks tired but relieved to be sitting. I see a slow breath leave his chest as his head looks down to the floor.

The coupon woman noticed that he left and apologetically pleaded her case with the cashier and I. She didn’t mean to be taking so long, why had he left?…where did he go?…was he angry?…she was embarrassed and even more frazzled. I told her that he had walked to the bench and surely just needed to take a break from standing.

As she walked away the cashier reached to take the mans items off the belt but I asked that she leave them. I would take care of it.

I paid for the grocerys and walked towards the door to the man on the bench. I reached over and handed him his bag and he burst forth with explanation that his legs had grown tired while standing there and he couldn’t do it any longer. I nodded that I understood. He then reached for his wallet and tried to pay me. I shook my head no and thanked him for his service. He struggled to pull money out of his pocket but I was already walking through the door and I repeated my thankfulness for his service to our country as I slipped out of the store.

I know it was a small gesture, but I can’t tell you how wonderful my heart felt to thank that man for his service to our country and it occured to me that being thankful is not something that we do just to bless others, it is a gift we give to ourselves.

A thankful heart is peaceful.
A thankful heart is not anxious or wanting the best seat at the table.
A thankful heart brings humility and it respects others.
When we are thankful, we esteems others as greater than ourselves and that is a beautiful way to live.

I want to live in that beauty and I want my children to also.

As parents we have the opportunity to train our children to be thankful. The best way we can do this is to live with a thankful heart. Children are smart, they see how we live and they live that way too.

I mentioned a couple practical ways to teach our kids to be thankful when I spoke on Star 105.7 this week on our Real Moms of West Michigan segment, they are:

  • Teach them to say thank you. And not just a half-hearted mumbled looking at the ground “thank you.” But we can teach them to look in to the persons eyes and clearly say thank you.

I had to work on this with my 7 yr old because someone would say to her, ‘oh you look so pretty’ and she would just smile and nod. As if to say- yes I AM darling.

No, I taught her, you need to look them in the eye and say thank you.

  • Another thing that is helpful is to ask your kids at bedtime, what are you thankful for today? If they don’t know…teach them the things to be thankful for:

“That we were kept safe every time drove in the car”
“That we are all healthy”
“That we have a warm home to sleep in”

  • Also, teach your kids to be thankful

    by giving to others.

I read about a great idea on the Happy Home Fairy blog to teach your kids to be thankful for others…they took individual bags of un-popped microwave popcorn and attached a little sticker/tag to it that said, “we just want to pop in to say we are thankful for you…and then signed their name”
You can hop over to the blog for free printable tags.
Give them to teachers, mailmen, bank teller, coaches and anyone else that touches their life. It helps to get our kids thinking about who they are thankful for.

Thankfulness is not just something to focus on during the holidays but if it opens the door to have the conversation, by all means walk through it. Use this time of year to teach the kids what a heart of thanksgiving looks like.

It will grow them up to be beautiful people.

The “Real Moms of West Michigan” airs Tuesday mornings at 7:05 AM EST.

If you are not in the West Michigan area, you can listen online at iHeart Radio:
STAR 105.7

And visit Tommy and Brook at:

STAR 105.7 on the web
STAR 105.7 on Facebook
@TommyAndBrook on Twitter

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