Today I will share some tips that we have found helpful in teaching children to be a blessing when we go to holiday get-togethers. I would never say that our children were perfect at gatherings (or at home!). However, I believe that we have met our goal of not having people dreading our arrival! LOL! And many times, I believe, they even look forward to it!
1. Everything starts with you. I know, I know…I sound like a broken record. But the fact is, if you go anywhere to be served, thinking of yourself and what you will get out of a situation, your children will too—only moreso. (We are firm believers in the saying, “What you allow in your life in moderation, your children will allow theirs in excess.”) When we had many small children, we first of all, tried to be sure that we took care of their needs—that people did not feel that we came with all these kids for others to tend to. Secondly, we tried to divide up and help as much as we could. Oftentimes, we had our hands full changing babies, nursing, fixing kids’ plates, wiping up messes, etc. However, anytime we could, we tried to help others—we wanted our kids to see that we are not here just for ourselves.
2. We tried to do things ahead of time that would bless others—staying up late the night before to make special dessert or getting up early and peeling twenty pounds of potatoes were things that we could do at home to bless others there—even if our hands were full at the get together. We always told our children that if you can do something to help others or serve others, try to do it. (Obviously, you can’t always help everybody all the time—but we tried to teach them to always be on the lookout for ways to help others—and God has used that mightily in preparing our now-adult children for their current areas of ministry.)
3. Gratefulness begins at home…okay, everything begins at home. Whatever we want our children to learn and do, we must train them in that in our homes—not hope they get it at church, youth group, Sunday school, or by osmosis. If our children are taught from early ages that everything we have comes from the hand of God—and that without him, we are nothing—they are more apt to be grateful for little things. How is this done? “Slow and steady; steady and slow; that’s the way we always go.” In other words, it’s not a “character lesson” for Thanksgiving week (though it can’t hurt to emphasize that quality this week!) or a book that you can read (though we are reading about gratefulness right now in Character Sketches). It is something that is cultivated as we pray, worship together, remind our children that others are investing in our lives and that God uses them to bless us. Discussion, discussion, discussion. “Did you notice how hard Grandma worked to prepare today for us?” Every little detail of living for God (including gratefulness) can be taught at home through living and talking.