Albums that chronicle my little family’s life fill the study in our home. Recently, I was pouring over those photos to pick just the right ones to include in a family DVD.  Special memories were triggered by the  moments captured by the camera.

Of course the obligatory birthday party pictures happen to be  included in the Kodak collection. Looking over those pictures gave me a warm, happy feeling…until I came across the infamous  four-year-old birthday party. There were at least a dozen pictures of this event. One of the twelve was a moment I had almost  forgotten; a picture of an ungrateful birthday child.

Tom and I had taken of pictures of each guest with the honored child holding the gift received.  In one particular photo, the giver is wearing a big ol’  (thankfully) oblivious smile and the receiver is donning a giant-sized pout. I don’t recall what the present was , but I do recall it was not a favorite!

Ungratefulness caught on film. 

I remember feeling surprised and taken aback at my daughter’s reaction. How could she react this way?  Four  is pretty young, but we always modeled thankfulness and gratefulness, so shouldn’t she demonstrate that, even at four-years-of-age?

This was a BIG MOM Fail! 

Tom and I realized modeling was only a piece of the training puzzle. Our kids needed direct instruction when it came to gifting etiquette  and heart attitude.  This experience was the catalyst to a new approach to parenting for us. We began intentionally saying things like, “The person is more important than the present.” “Think about how much the giver thought about you as he was picking out your gift.” ‘”Always say, Thank you.’ ” 

We began verbalizing more than just a,” Thank you”  when acts of kindness were shown. We used each considerate gesture as a training opportunity. “Thank you so much for honoring me by opening the door when my hands were full. I so appreciate your thoughtfulness and help.” 

A grateful heart rather than an entitled spirit is one of the most important character traits to teach and reinforce. Thankfulness, consideration, and gratefulness are all things that grow the beautiful quality of unselfishness; which in turn grows a person’s capacity to love another.  

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1 

How do you reinforce thankfulness?

Photo credit: Ian Dooley

© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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