Recently, my daughter started school. Well, at least that’s what I call it. For some reason, the word school sounds better than daycare. It makes me feel good when I kiss her goodbye and put her in the arms of another woman. And although she’s only 15-months-old, she’s learning a lot. She even knows sign language! One of the first words she signed was thank you. She can even sound it out. Sounds more like tank cue, but the meaning isn’t lost when she says it after receiving more milk, Cheerios or toys. Even though she falls out for mommy at home, she’s sweet as pie in public. This Thanksgiving, I wonder how mothers with older children teach their kids about generosity and gratitude.
I caught up with Reverend Sharon Moore of The Historic Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Detroit, Michigan to find out how her and her husband, Reverend Dr. Byron, teach their three children to be thankful.
How do you teach your children to be thankful?
We actually have a game that we made up about being thankful, and it’s called “NO REPEATS!” We take turns going around to each person in the immediate family, naming things for which we are thankful. The main rule is you cannot repeat anything that someone else has stated. This shows the children how many things God has blessed us with and how thankful we should be. We also taught our children (who are now 8, 5 & 3) generosity at a young age.
This is a regular occurence, but on Thanksgiving, we spend the day with both sides of the family. We rotate the dinner between three homes and do a potluck meal. The girls have even expressed an interest in helping me to cook!
Do you practice what you preach?
My husband and I try desperately to practice what we preach by letting the kids hear our oral praise to God. They also join us in prayer. We show them everyday how to be thankful. We tell each of them what they mean to us. My husband and I verbalize to each child their individual strengths and what we like about each one of their distinct personalities. We pray over them at night as they prepare to go to bed, so they hear the thankfulness that we express to God for them. We are a very affectionate family.
Do you turn to your religion to help teach your kids gratitude?
ABSOLUTELY! It is because of Jesus Christ that we have so much for which to be thankful! The kids know from whom all blessings flow.
Did gratitude develop overnight, or did it take time for your little ones to grasp the concept?
It didn’t take as long as we would have thought. We emphasize very strongly our disdain for the spirit of entitlement. We also trust God’s instructions to parents to train their children up in the way they should go. It’s never too early. Kids grasp information quickly. Our children have become each other’s accountability partners and will say, “Mom, (the sibling’s name) is being selfish.” Or they will say, “Mom, (the sibling’s name) didn’t say thank you.”
How old were your children when they first expressed thanks?
As early as I can remember. Each of our children gave hugs to show thanks before they could speak in complete sentences, and then when they got to the toddler and preschool age, in addition to saying thank you or giving hugs, they would draw pictures.
Do you talk about others who are in need? Do you volunteer with your kids or require them to donate a portion of their allowance to charity?
We talk about and pray for the needy regularly. Once when we felt that the spirit of entitlement was rising up in our children, I told them real life stories about the less fortunate. I told them that they should come with their father and I when we minister to the poor. About two weeks later, our oldest daughter inquired of us about going to feed the homeless. We packed up lunches, drinks and spiritual messages and drove to Cass Corridor. It really impacted them, and we have decided we will do this as a family on a regular basis.
Why are you thankful for your children?
I am thankful for my children because they are blessings from All Mighty God! All of them were high risk pregnancies, and each of them were carried to full term with multiple rumors in my uterus. They are healthy, above average in intelligence, and truly bring me joy! Not only do I love my kids immensely, but I like each of them as well! To God be the glory for the things He alone has done! Hallelujah!
You can hear more from Sharon Moore at The Historic Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Detroit, Michigan where she serves as the Assistant Minister and leads the church’s first women’s ministry, E.A.G.L.E.S. (Expectations As God Leads Each Sister), which focuses on cultivating women’s individual spiritual lives and equipping them for mental, emotional, physical and financial development and prosperity. Rev. Moore has been recognized and honored by the Michigan Chronicle for her leadership and active participation in the religious community. She has also been honored by the National Coalition of Women In Ministry with the Esther Award for leadership and ministry in the church and community. Worship services are Sundays at 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good for His mercy endureth for ever” Psalm 136:1
How do you teach your children to be thankful? Do you play any fun games about the life lesson, make crafts or volunteer in your community?