Teach Children to Feel and Express Gratitude for Blessings
Contributed By Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president
- As parents, set a good example by expressing gratitude often.
- Teach children that one of the most important parts of any prayer is gratitude.
- Gratitude invites the Spirit and reminds us to be joyful.
One of my daughters and her husband have a wonderful family tradition. Each evening at dinnertime they go through a ritual called “rose, thorn, and bud.” They go around the table and each person in the family is asked to express one good thing about the day, one thing that was hard, and something they are looking forward to the next day. The best part of this tradition is the first part—“the rose”—because it invites each person to find the good in their day and be grateful. This invitation to find the good in their daily lives is a wonderful way to cultivate the important attribute of gratitude in a child’s life.
In the Book of Mormon, Amulek invites a group of people to “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). Teaching our children to live life with appreciation and gratitude for the many blessings they enjoy daily accentuates the positive and helps them feel happy and positive about life.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said this about the characteristic of gratitude: “It is a quality I have found in every happy person I know. It is a quality that instantly makes a person more likeable and more at peace. Where there is an abundance [of gratitude], there is happiness” (“Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” Ensign, Sept. 2001, 8).
What parent is there who would not want this for their children? And yet, more and more we live in a world where even though our youth experience an abundance of material blessings and have unlimited opportunities for rich experiences, they often feel a lack in their lives. One thing that is sometimes missing is this feeling of appreciation and gratitude for all the blessings they have been given.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, it might be a good exercise to take a look at the ways we can cultivate the quality of gratitude and thankfulness in our lives and in that of our children. One way is for us to develop what President Thomas S. Monson calls “an attitude of gratitude” in all that we do (“An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, Apr. 1992).
If we as parents make a conscious effort to express our appreciation for our children, for the gospel, for material blessings, and for every good thing in our lives, often and out loud, it will set a pattern for our children to follow. It will help turn their thoughts away from themselves, and they will naturally begin to look for the blessings in their own lives.
This is a good time of year to plan a family home evening where we consider the many ways the Lord has blessed us in the past year and to express them to one another or to write them down as a part of our family history record. We could hold a family home evening lesson where we use the Topical Guide in the scriptures to find and read as many scriptures as possible about the importance of gratitude and giving thanks in our lives. Here are a few good ones with which to start: D&C 59:21; 46:32; Mosiah 2:19-21; and this joyful one from Psalm 100:3-4. When we read D&C 59:5-7, “Wherefore, I give unto them a commandment. … Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things,” we begin to understand, as President Marion G. Romney once pointed out, that gratitude “is not merely a courtesy, it is a commandment as binding upon us as any other commandment” (“Gratitude and Thanksgiving,” Ensign, Nov. 1982).
We can teach our children that one of the most important parts of any prayer is gratitude. Taking the time to express gratitude to Heavenly Father for His bounteous blessings each time we pray over our food, say personal prayers, or hold family prayers teaches children to be mindful of their blessings and express them before they ask for more blessings.
Expressing gratitude often for the ultimate gift of the Atonement reminds children of the Savior and of His importance to each of us. We might even occasionally offer a family prayer that consists wholly of expressions of gratitude for the bounteous blessings we enjoy as a family. What a wonderful message for our children to hear.
Teach children to take time to write thank-you notes or letters of appreciation to friends and family members for kind acts performed for them or just to say “I love and appreciate you!” Teenagers and young children alike could be reintroduced to the joy of sending a beautiful handwritten note on paper to a friend or loved one instead of a texted message or email. Begin by writing and leaving notes of appreciation for your children when you observe them doing something noteworthy.
The daughter I mentioned in the beginning came to live with us with her three young daughters while her husband was deployed on an extended military assignment. Their “rose, thorn, and bud” tradition became a favorite part of our day. Often, their “roses” were as simple as “I liked looking at the clouds today” or “a friend was nice to me at school.” As we watched each of these then small girls take time to think about the best part of their day and express their feelings about it, we found ourselves searching to find the blessings we had experienced and feeling excited to share those with them. That simple moment of gratitude and of acknowledging blessings brought a feeling of joy into our home each evening.
I have always loved this scripture from Psalm 118:24, which declares, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Making gratitude an important part of our lives invites the Spirit and reminds us to be joyful.