From Tantrums to Thankfulness. Thoughts for Parents November 2011.

Thankfulness is extraordinarily powerful. It blesses the one who is thankful, and it blesses the thankful person’s friends, family, and leaders. In fact, it is so powerful that it can bless anyone the thankful person meets. When a thankful person walks into a room, it changes everything.

The problem with thankfulness is its very high cost. Like most powerful and precious things, it costs so much that we often choose something else.  To have thankfulness, I must give up something that is near and dear to me. I must give up my selfishness.

Our children are watching us all the time, and they are particularly curious to learn what we really value and how we will spend our treasure. When we treasure selfishness and refuse to spend it down to gain thankfulness, our children notice, and they learn, and they imitate. When they are very young, their imitation plus their natural tendency toward selfishness results in tantrums. “Mine!” and “No!” and “Gimme that!” are among our darling toddlers’ favorite words.

Some children remain so selfish that it stunts their growth, and they continue or resume their tantrums even as young adults. This is dangerous and debilitating. A teen having a tantrum or another powerful manifestation of selfishness can wreak havoc in a family, or class, or group of friends.

As parents, we become frustrated if our children are typically angry, stubborn, or even just whiny. When our kids our stunted and drowning in their own selfishness, it can cause us deep anxiety and alienation.   We wonder where we went wrong. We remember our sacrifices. The sleepless nights with the baby. The thousands of diapers and dozens of band-aids. The birthday cakes and piles of Christmas presents. The rides to soccer and ballet. The house or car we could have had if we hadn’t been paying tuition.

When we see our children hurting themselves, hurting us, and hurting others, we are in danger of becoming passive. We don’t know what to do, so we may withdraw into our own doubts and gradually become more and more emotionally and spiritually distant.

But there are some things we can do to help ourselves and our children. I believe that one of the most powerful is to invest ourselves in thankfulness. It will cost us a lot, but the rewards are worth considering. Imagine the impact in your home if your words and choices become dramatically more thankful than they are now.

What would it be like if your child begins to imitate you as you seek God’s help and gradually become a very grateful person? Imagine the effect on your child’s team and class if you become a parent who steadily expresses thanks to the coach and the teachers. What if you look for good things in the homework assignments your child brings home? What if you regularly demonstrate thankfulness for each good thing your child learns, even if this learning comes through difficult circumstances (like getting a disappointing grade, or sitting on the bench during a game).   What if your thankfulness becomes contagious, rubbing off on your child, his friends, the teacher, the coach, and the other parents?   What if it becomes a tsunami of blessing, washing away selfishness throughout our community!   What if the blessing flows back to you through your child?

It helps me so much when my child is actively thankful. When I am exhausted from a difficult day, just three little words, “Thank you, Daddy,” and a hug from Joey changes everything.    It’s one of those moments where God’s kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.   It’s a sweet and healing moment.

So, Happy Thanksgiving 2o11!   May it be a holiday (a Holy Day) like no other!    I’m praying that God will help me to deeply and gratefully enjoy the football and turkey and relatives.    And, I certainly hope any relatives reading this will forgive me for grouping them with the turkey and football.   Like thankfulness, forgiveness is powerful and necessary.

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