When I was preparing to write about the character traits of gratitude, thankfulness, and contentment, I determined that they are so closely related they should be taught as a whole instead of individually. I definitely believe that contentment comes from feeling grateful and thankful for the blessings in every day life.
Having contentment means that you are happy and satisfied with the things you have (this not only includes material things, but talents and skills as well). It also means that you are able to feel joy when others are blessed.
These character traits can be a kick in the butt to learn and teach. Jealousy is a huge obstacle for people of all ages to overcome and in today’s society where it seems children have so much more material things than previous generations, contentment can be a monumental challenge.
This is certainly a struggle in my own household. For over ten years my husband and I have run a side business of thrifting items and selling them online. I love the treasure hunting at estate and garage sales. The downside to this hobby is that over the years we’ve collected an attic full of stuff and spent money on silly toys for the kids because “It was only 25 cents!”
In the back of my mind I know it doesn’t do the girls any good to have all these toys to look after, especially when their bedroom floor looks like a toy store exploded. Not only does this create stress for them and me, it also develops in them a careless attitude, thinking their stuff doesn’t need to be cared for because it is easily replaced.
Thornton W. Burgess discusses the character trait of contentment in nearly all of his books. I’ve listed a few examples below:
- The Adventures of Peter Cottontail (Chapters 1-3): Peter wants to change his name because he thinks his sounds too common.
- The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse (Chapters 1-2): Danny is unhappy with the length of his tail.
- The Adventures of Johnny Chuck (Chapter 11): Johnny wishes he had a handsome fur coat like Reddy Fox.
- The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat (Chapter 16): Spotty the Turtle briefly wants legs to climb like Happy Jack Squirrel.
I may not have intentionally led my children down this path of ungratefulness, but it doesn’t make the reality of the situation go away. I must now make an intentional effort to correct it. Thankfully, there are ample opportunities in every day situations and books we read that can give our kids a clearer image of what these character traits look like…and as the saying goes “practice makes perfect.” Just as with patience, we need to be examples of thankfulness and contentment to our kids. Below are some activities, links and book suggestions to get you started.
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- Volunteer! Giving of our time and resources will often help kids appreciate the things they have when they realize there are many people in need, especially when it’s for items they might take for granted like blankets, toothbrushes, and toilet paper.
- Learn some of these songs and rhymes that the kids can sing as a reminder to be grateful.
- Read these bible stories to teach contentment.
- Make it a daily habit for each person at the dinner table to express something they were thankful for that day.
- Check out these gratitude activities for the classroom.
- Make time for regular Thankfulness Walks.
- Every week pick a family member or friend to receive thank you notes, drawings, or letters of appreciation.
- Make a gratitude jar.
- Practice giving compliments.
- Teach the object lesson: lemons into lemonade.
- Play one of these gratitude games.
- Watch or read the Bible story of the ten lepers and follow it up with these lesson ideas.
- Create a thankfulness scrapbook: cut out magazine pictures or take and print photos of favorite things and beautiful scenery.
- Free gratefulness lesson.
- Fill out this Thankfulness Worksheet.
- Play the Pick Up Stick Gratitude Game.
- Watch a video about Living Like a Pioneer. Discuss some of their hardships, remembering to be thankful for their sacrifices.
- Role play receiving gifts and expressing proper thanks with siblings or stuffed animals.
- Make or buy cookies and deliver them to your local fire or police stations.
- Give kids age appropriate chores to help them better understand how running a household takes everyone’s participation, not just the sacrifices of one or two parents.
- Make this Wheel of Thankfulness.
For the mother who feels overwhelmed
I’ve included some links here to articles as well as book suggestions that may help you on your personal journey to finding contentment.
- How Getting Rid of My Stuff Saved my Motherhood
- From Clutter and Depression to Minimalism and Contentment