Posted by: everynation | May 30, 2011

Developing Gratitude

By: Ross Middleton

(note: This is a three part series compiled into one blog post)

Part one

Amy and I are working extra hard on trying to develop a culture of generosity and gratitude in our family. Because I believe that we are fallen as humans and we are born with the spiritual gift of complaining and ungratefulness, we are trying extra hard to counter that. None of these are necessarily time tested things that work, its just what we are doing to try and help out kids have a heart of gratitude. I’d love to hear your ideas of what you’ve done too!

Since we just had Christmas, and that’s one of the biggest tests to see if you’ve done good or not for the year, I’ll share what we do to try and be grateful. By the way, we batted about .500 for our kids attitudes on Christmas morning, we had some victories and a few defeats too.

Since Christmas is all about getting, we wanted to try and place the emphasis on giving. So instead of having a “get” pile of all the things we are “getting” for Christmas, we made “giving” piles and then we got to watch each other and celebrate the giving of gifts rather then the getting of presents.

Now admittedly, this is not a major change, but its a little tweak that we pray will result in a big paradigm shift. I want my kid to have the revelation that giving really is more exciting than receiving.

Some times its these little changes in course down the road that I hope and pray will turn into a different direction.

Part two

In our never ending quest to raise kids who aren’t ungrateful little jokers we did something else this year on their birthday that was a little different.

I will tell you what we did in just a second but first, I have to tell you why. Our culture, in my opinion, feeds into the natural myopia and narcism that we are born with. We as parents have to fight the onslaught of self gratification and selfishness that our culture preaches and throws at us. Basically, our kids need to learn that life is not about them and does not revolve around them, its about Jesus and his purposes and making him known.

Our boys birthdays are only 4 days apart so in these younger years we have celebrated their birthdays together. We wanted to teach our boys that there are real problems around the world and that lots of little kids don’t have any toys and many don’t have any homes.

Instead of having everyone bring presents, we thought it would be neat for them to bring a cash donation and we would give it to the boys “brother” that we have sponsored through Compassion. We found a little boy that was the exact same age, to the day, of our oldest son Aiden. He lives in Rwanda and we call him I.T. His name is really hard to pronounce and so instead of butchering it like ignorant Americans, we gave him a cool nickname, I.T.

So through their birthday, their friends brought around $160 to give to the boys. They then have the privilege of giving ALL that money to I.T. and help him have a better life. It was a great way to teach the boys generosity. It helps instill gratitude because they realize they have been blessed with so much and so many people have so much less than us so we want to give what we have away. It is also a great way to connect with other families and show them that we are a little different, in a very non-weird way. We value certain things as a family that we want to instill into our children and we hope and pray that it gives us the chance and opportunity to sow a seed and be able to share the gospel with them later.

Before you think I’m a bad parent and I don’t get my kids gifts, we let the family give gifts and the friends help out I.T. Our goal and prayer for our kids is to have each one of them have a corresponding “sibling” that we sponsor through Compassion as they get older and that every year their birthday parties will be about giving away not getting on their own volition.

Part three

This is a little thing that we learned from our Pastor in Washington DC, Mark Batterson. Its really simple, but I love the idea.

Every night as we are going through our nightly routine of reading a story, reading the Bible, praying and seeing some worship songs, we added one little thing to the end. We got a little calendar that we hung on their wall and its their “Thankful” calendar.

Every day, at the end of the day, we ask them what they are thankful for. We write it down on the calendar and then ask them why. Albeit this may be a small little act, we are hoping and praying that it produces big results. I am intentionally trying to hard wire them to think with a thankful heart every day. What we are trying to do is instill that every day, no matter what has happened, we want them to be thankful and have a heart of gratitude.

I am hoping that after years of doing this, when they are old and they lay on their bed at night after life has kicked them in the face that day, instead of the enemy sowing a seed of bitterness or ungratefulness in their heart, they will lay on their bed and thank God for the gifts He has given them that day.


Ross Middleton is the lead pastor of the upcoming church plant in Miami, Florida, South Coast Church.


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