My son takes after his father. He’s a picky eater. It’s no surprise that our family isn’t very adventurous when it comes to menus and cultural cuisine.
Recently, we visited Grandma’s house for dinner: a wonderful, authentic Mexican meal. As we were served, my son boldly stated, “I don’t like this food.”
I was embarrassed by his lack of appreciation. This awkward situation opened the door for a life lesson. Grandma had worked hard and had lovingly prepared a meal she thought we would enjoy. At the very least, we needed to show her some respect and appreciation for what she had prepared. I reminded my son that being thankful involves more than just giving thanks by saying grace.
A similar scene often plays out at children’s birthday parties. Surrounded by brightly coloured packages and bags, many children dive in, one bag after another, without taking the time to read the card or to recognize the generosity and thoughtfulness of the givers. The excitement of the moment is often just too much for them and they forget all the lessons learned about being a gracious receiver.
What is it that we want kids to recognize when receiving a gift?
- God ultimately provides and he is worthy of our thanks.
- Without the giver, there is no gift. Honour both, and in that order.
- See the giver’s heart apart from the gift, even if the gift is something they don’t care for.
- Realize the gift is a gift of grace. No one made the giver give it.
- There are no strings attached, no requirement to repay the giver.
As parents, we are charged with teaching our children some difficult lessons. But the Bible promises it’s a worthwhile investment: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22: 6).
Some practical methods for teaching graciousness to our children involve:
- Apologizing to the giver whenever necessary. Not easy at any age.
- Role playing: Practise how to respond to disappointment and distaste beforehand.
- Seeing us parents in action. It happens more often than we think. Do we practise what we preach? Do we model gracious receiving ourselves? What do children hear and see in us when we adults receive a gift: sarcasm, ungratefulness, whiny attitude, payback?
- Prayer. Ask God to empower us to be gracious receivers.
The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 provides us with godly characteristics that show us how to be good gift receivers. Love, goodness and faithfulness help us to show love and appreciation towards givers for who they are and the spirit with which their gifts were given. Joy allows us to demonstrate contentment for what we have, rather than envy for what we don’t have. Patience and gentleness give us grace to kindly accept even those gifts that we may not like. Peace, kindness and self-control provide the good judgment to avoid making sarcastic or rude comments.
Teaching kids to be gracious receivers is a two-way street. Receivers extend sincere appreciation to the givers for their thoughtfulness and generosity. When you see it, affirm it . . . then try to model it.
Kevin Davidson is a stewardship consultant in the Calgary office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit http://MennoFoundation.ca.