Parenting: Thankfulness in Action

While thinking about how as a parent I should prepare my family for Thanksgiving Day, I decided to look up the word gratitude.

The definition began as expected, and I was a bit deflated upon realizing that I would not find any new ideas about how to approach Thanksgiving by better understanding this word. I read:

“grat·i·tudeˈ  gratəˌt(y)o͞od noun the quality of being thankful;”

Yes, familiar. Of course we understand the importance of this and the necessity of raising children who get it, too. But I was already doing this. In fact, we had begun listing things we were thankful for during our entire drive to school each morning. Each taking a turn, we considered our days and responded with thankfulness over the blueness of the sky, the home that God has provided, the family we all share. But somehow I felt there needed to be more. Is it enough to say thank you? Enough to feel gratitude and to encourage my children to do the same?

And then, I noticed it. In my rush to understand, I had quickly skimmed the definition. I had seen that it was familiar. But I had not finished. There was more to see and far more to do. The dictionary listing for gratitude continued: “readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

There is more. If we are to fully respond in gratitude, we must find a way not only to say thank you, but to ready ourselves to SHOW appreciation and… oh, this is big… to return kindness. This is the thought offered in 2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." We are blessed so that we might be a blessing to others.

What would happen if we asked our children to express their gratitude and then, instead of calling it good, we looked them square in the eye and said, “Now, what will you do about that?” What if we found a way to live our thankfulness by doing something for someone else?

  • Are you thankful for your home? How might you bless someone who has no home?
  • Are you feeling grateful for a kindness shown? How might you return that kindness today?
  • Are you giving thanks for friends, for food? Can you give of yourself or your goods to bless another?
  • And if we feel gratitude for the grace that God has so freely given to us, can we offer the same to someone in need? 
  • Might we spend a few minutes seeking His will and asking for wisdom on how to respond? 

Thanksgiving Day is a gift. It is a time for us to gather with family and respond in faith and speak words of reflection about the life we live. But is that all it means? The very definition of gratitude offers direction about what else we must do. And as parents, we lead by example.

Yes, feel your thankfulness. And then act upon it.

About the author — Nadia Swearingen-Friesen

Nadia Swearingen-Friesen is a writer and national speaker with a passion for empowering parents to approach their families with great intentionality and grace.  Nadia and her husband, Mark, are the parents of four children and live in the Chicago area. Nadia also blogs at

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