One day (a long time ago) I asked my youngest daughter to clean her room. I expected a whine or a huff, but instead she exclaimed, “Mommy, I’d be gladitude.” She didn’t know it then as she morphed glad to and attitude in one nice little word, but she started me down a trail toward fostering gladitude in our family.
As we gather around Thanksgiving tables, we will likely take a moment to count our blessings, thanking God for His abundance. But as we clink dish to dish and wipe pumpkin pie from our child’s chin, will we remember to be grateful in the day-to-day trenches of parenting? How can we do that in our families? Four GLAD ways: Give, List, Adjust, Declare
Modeling sacrificial giving and helping children become aware of the needs of the world breeds thankfulness. We helped our children understand poverty by sponsoring a native missionary in India through Gospel for Asia and helping a boy in Rwanda with schooling and food through Compassion International. Our children write letters to our Rwandan boy. We talk about the world’s needs around our dinner table.
Since all three of our children have had the benefit of going to school in Europe, they have gained a greater appreciation for the needs of the world beyond the United States. Parents can foster this awareness as well by exposing kids gently to the world:
- Read the newspaper together with an eye toward redemption. Filter what you read, but when you do read something difficult like the genocide in Darfur, stop and invite your children to pray with you.
- Sponsor a child through World Vision or Compassion International.
- This Christmas, consider logging onto Samaritan’s Purse and purchasing livestock or drinking-water for a family less fortunate.
Sometimes just listing things we’re thankful for changes our outlook. One day while my young son Aidan was praying, he slipped by saying, “God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our mood.” Can I thank God for my mood? Sometimes not. The days I can are days I have learned to list my blessings and help my children number theirs. How?
One way we do this is to play “High-Low” low around the dinner table where each of us recounts our highs and our lows of the day. Regularly talking about what has blessed us helps us all to shift our mood from bad to good, reminding us that God is always lurking around every corner of our lives, ready to surprise us with blessings. Often our highs involve gratitude:
I’m thankful my teacher was kind to me.
I’m glad I got a good grade.
I’m happy that my friend played with me during recess.
I love that we went to the zoo today.
Psalm 116: 7 offers advice for those of us who find parenting exhausting, who have a hard time counting blessings in the midst of laundry and arguments and fatigue. “Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (NASB). God asks us adjust our schedules, daring to return to rest in order to settle our souls—not an easy task in our rush-rush-rush world. How can our families learn to have thankful hearts if we never slow down enough to see God’s blessings? I can’t count how many times I spent watching my children sleep, watching their chests rise and fall, and whispering a quiet ‘thank you’ to Jesus. When I slow down enough to see the beauty in each child, or try to understand life from their perspective, I have space to be thankful.
While living in France our family embarked on a journey of Sabbath rest. One day a week, we set aside our normal stresses and concentrate on being together, doing art projects, taking walks, taking a break from our normal routine. The adjustment in our hectic schedule to retreat has brought gladitude in our home simply because we’ve taken time away to re-evaluate our lives, to spend time together without interruption.
Sometimes it’s hard to be thankful. Sometimes family life is difficult. Even so, we can foster gladitude in our families by declaring God’s goodness anyway. The popular worship song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman comes from Job chapter one where Job basically says that God gives and He takes away, but that Job will choose to bless Him anyway. Declaring God’s goodness even in the bleakness of life takes discipline. Our faith meets the road of life when we dare to praise God in the storms.
Remind your children of the difficult adage that life is not fair, but don’t stop there. Read Habakkuk 3:17-18, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, through there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (NASB). Declaring out loud that God is good and rejoicing in His goodness is a habit that will forever alter our children’s gladitude, even as they grow into adulthood.
Gladitude is not easy to model or teach. It’s a revolutionary, kingdom-advancing act. Modeling thankfulness is counterintuitive, particularly around the holiday season when life becomes all about presents. Gladitude has more to do with appreciating God’s presence than pining after presents. The more our families learn how to give, list, adjust and declare, the more we’ll revel in God’s surprising and available presence whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other time of the year.