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Rituals...much of my early Christian tradition taught me they were something to be avoided.  But is there something inately wrong with a life ritual?

It’s not like they are unfamiliar to us.  We have them in place to help us do the important things. Rituals help us get into habits so we don’t have to think about what or why we are doing a job in order to get it done.  It becomes automatic and part of our routine.  And therein lies the problem.

Many of our rituals are so ingrained that we neglect discussing them with our children.  We think it isn’t important to discuss the “why’s” of what we are doing.

They often grow up seeing them as empty rituals with no meaning…because to them they don’t have meaning.  It often seems dopey to spell out to them why we are doing what we are doing, but we need to …especially regarding rituals that involve our values, our faith, even our relationship with GOD!

So now, I’ll get into some of them…and how we teach them.  Because we want our children to learn them in a vital way, not in a way that emphasizes rote living and the keeping of rules for their sake.  Would there be any duller existence?

How are we helping our kids learn to be grateful?

How do you teach your child to be grateful?  Learning to say “Please” and “Thank you” is certainly a good starting place.  Am I teaching the magic words as simply a “magic” word ie. the ultimate tool of manipulation?  Or am I teaching it as the polite thing to do ie. making others think more of me as a great parent for having a polite child or of them as a person for being polite is not the end we are seeking.  Hopefully, our goal is to have the child learn to be grateful.

That is the important issue.  The other factors are merely details.  If my child slips up on saying “Please” or “Thank you” but is exhibiting grateful behavior in another way, I don’t have to stop everything to make a big event of their not saying the words like I would when I’m parenting for an audience.  Why?  Because their behavior is showing what I ultimately want to see GOD work in their lives.  The same goes for many of the other character traits I want to see developed in my children.

Of course, the most powerful way of teaching our children is through modeling…not the conscious modeling we do, but so much of the unconscious ways we teach our children…what our true values are.  When we try to teach gratefulness and all they see is complaining coming from us…will they learn gratefulness?  Not likely.

Recognize that all good things come from GOD as we realize we have needs

Learning to be grateful or thankful for the things GOD provides takes conscious effort.  We need to learn to be thankful for GOD’s provision even when it isn’t always what we thought we wanted…and be verbal about it.  Not preachy mind you, but verbal.

Finding a ritualistic way to pray together for meals isn’t bad for sometimes.  Whether you pray the same prayer so you can all pray aloud together or whether you take turns praying aloud what is on your heart.  Praying at the meal needs to be a time we remember to focus not on praying the shortest prayer so we can eat quickly, but to take time to express our gratefulness to GOD for His provision for our needs, not just for the food, but other needs He meets as well.

Mealtime prayer is a ritual.  It can be empty when we say words that are the equivalent of “Please” and “Thank You.”  Or it can have meaning as we stop and thank GOD, the giver of life, for the provision He has made of food, a job,  good health in order to pursue that job, and so on.  I think you get the picture.

I have touched on one arena of many that are affected by ritual.  The one I’m being challenged on however, is prayer.  That is what I wanted to talk about today.  It is one I plan to work on this week…but my time is up today.  There will be a part II.

Meanwhile, think about the ways you teach rituals.  Do you talk about the root concept, discuss it, then teach it by the way you live?  Or do you try to teach it by rote and and hold to the letter of the law while doing it?  

Share how you teach gratitude in your home.