“We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.” – Psalm 75:1 (NKJV)
It is very important to teach children to say “thank you”. It is even more important to teach them to mean it when it is said. How can we do that?
One way is to help a child understand the effort put in to achieving a task that benefits the child. Study of nature also helps a child appreciate what God has done.
When a child is raised by a “helicopter parent” who hovers near all the time to protect from any discomfort, that child has little or no chance to experience what it takes to make things happen. How, then, can the child appreciate the effort s/he has not experienced? On the other hand, a child who earns money for wants or needs, soon realizes that effort is needed to provide those things.
There are many activities that can be used to help children experience what it takes to obtain the things they have. Daily chores help a child understand about upkeep of a home. Visiting work with mom or dad sheds light on what parents do to support their children. For most children, going without electricity or food for a few hours can be beneficial. The experience could be talked about as a game. When the stomach starts to make noises, the child will think about how to get food. Visiting factories shows children how people work to provide their needs. A great project is to help plant and cultivate a garden.
A visit to an elderly person often results in children hearing stories of yesteryear. Even if a child protests, they should be required to listen and show respect as they hear about washing clothes, canning food, butchering animals, and the many other things that were necessary in olden times. There is a good chance some of those older people will tell how they depended on God to help them through rough times. War stories and historic events stimulate thinking.
Every parent has a visual that can be used to help children appreciate God. That is nature. Trees, flowers, stars, dirt, rocks, and all creation shouts about the magnitude of our God. As parents point out these things to children, they learn to appreciate how mighty our God really is! I clearly remember a time when my dad stooped down, broke off a blade of grass, and said, “Look at that! All those little lines and all that tiny fuzz on this blade of grass! Just remember, man may be able to fly an airplane and some day even go to the moon, but don’t ever forget, only God can make a blade of grass!”
Saying “thank you” is a good habit whether truly meant or not, but whenever possible, adults should help children truly appreciate what they have in order to genuinely mean the words.