Nurturing Gratitude: Practical Tips for Fostering Thankful Kids

Nurturing Gratitude: Practical Tips for Fostering Thankful Kids

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jill Rigby Gardner about raising respectful children in a disrespectful world. We discussed the importance of cultivating gratitude in children, the impact of the self-esteem movement on kids’ behavior, and practical tips for instilling a grateful attitude. From redefining treats to teaching manners, we learned how to shift the focus from self-centeredness to valuing and respecting others. Join us as we explore ways to nurture grateful hearts and foster a culture of respect in our children.

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Well, we’re here, right before Thanksgiving and the big question is always how can we make our kids more thankful? But in actuality, we need to have our kids be polite year-round. And just being thankful all year round, that’s always a good thing. My guest today is Jill Rigby Gardner, and she has written a book called Raising Respect, Children in a Disrespectful World. We’re going to talk a little bit about why kids are so disrespectful and how we can help them get there, but also how we can help them be thankful. So welcome, Jill.


Hi. Cynthia. Glad to be here with you.



So, Jill, why are kids so disrespectful these days? What’s the big deal?


I’ll give you a couple of answers. The major answer I’ll give you is that in the late 60s, and early 70s, we bought into the ridiculous notion of self-esteem, and I call it the Great Lie. And it’s no different than the sin of pride in the Garden of Eden. But we understood that was bad, right? Go back to 16 or 17 hundreds. And there was a lot of discussion about vain, glory, vanity of self. We still understood bad. Then we come along to the early 70’s it’s all reframed and it’s now called self-esteem.


But it is no different. It is all the same, the esteeming of self. And we all fell for it hook, line, and sinker. And this time we decided it was a very good thing. We decided it was an essential part of our existence. It has not been a surprise to me, although it’s been heartbreaking to watch since I started meaner to the heart 25 years ago. In the last 25 years, what’s happened in our society and as we have become more and more disrespectful, and I take it all back, most of the issues we’re having today, I’m going to take it back to that evolution of self-esteem. Finally.

It was called something that we all fell for and decided it was a good thing. And the clearest definition of self-esteem is esteeming of self, which we should have understood is the same thing and not good. But we didn’t. And so, what’s happened is rather than esteeming others, children esteem themselves. And all this talk today about love yourself, love yourself, love yourself and the world will love you. If we just thought about that for a half minute, we would recognize the truth is the more deeply we fall in love with ourselves, the harder it is for us to love others. Right? Because we get lost in ourselves. And of course, out of all of that comes this disrespectfulness.

Because if you’re lost in yourself and if your goal in life is the esteeming of yourself and it’s all about me, there’s not going to be any level of respect left in our society. And that’s what’s happened.


Yeah. And we love ourselves. Even for people who are depressed, we love ourselves. That’s our problem is that we’re not thinking about the other person. It’s very hard to do. But you have an entire chapter in here in your book on being grateful and so on. So, I just want you to share a little bit about how you can change that mindset to other-centered and be grateful for what we do have.


Absolutely. It begins with helping children to get outside themselves. I’ll give you just a silly little example. One way to start this is if you’ve been going to the grocery or on your shopping trips and your child has become accustomed to a treat. Okay, number one, you know, you’ve crossed the line when they have become accustomed and now it has become an expectation, it is now no longer a treat, right? So, if your child is looking for what they’re going to get, right? Of course, there’s no gratitude because there’s an expectation. And so, you’ve kind of programmed them to expect something, a treat. So, it’s no longer a treat because that’s an unexpected pleasure, is a treat.

You created the problem. So how do you undo that? And this is one of the first steps toward leading children toward a heart of gratitude. So, the next time you go to the store, you say, “No, not today.” And you’re going to have to be willing to deal with whatever your child is going to give you. But you’re the parent. You have the God-given authority to stand in your place of authority. There’s no need to get upset. There’s no need to raise your voice.

And the more your children get upset, the more you can be calm because you’re standing in your place of authority. And you know, what you’re doing is what’s best for your child. So dependent on how long it’s going to take to undo it depends on how long you’ve been doing it. So, I’m not going to promise the first time, repeatedly, every time you go, no, not today. No, not today. No, not today. If you stand in it and remain calm, you will break that cycle and they’ll stop asking because you’ve removed that expectation. Now, here’s the cool thing about this.

So, the day comes when you go in and you’ve been on two or three trips and nothing has been asked for, nothing’s been said, and today you’re going to say, “All right, honey, why don’t you get a treat today, and get a second treat to give away.”

Well, your child, you’re going to blow your child’s mind in the first place. Now you’ve confused them because you’ve been telling them no. But guess what? Now they receive the treat as a treat out of your love for them for no other reason but just because. Right? But what they do is they get one treat, they get a second one for someone else, and they turn, and they give it away. If you’re not comfortable doing that right at that moment, wait till you get back in your neighborhood, back around people. You know, there’s so many stories I’ve gotten from people who’ve done this right there in the moment. And what happens to your child’s heart is this. They immediately feel and experience for themselves how much better it feels to give something away than it feels to get it.

And I’ve had so many parents, Cynthia, say, they started doing this, and then I’ll get an email and say, “jill, what do I do now? Every time we go to the store now, they want to buy something to give it away. How do I break that?”

And say, “Why do you want to break that? What a beautiful thing.”

So, if you want to kind of break the greediness that kind of crept into your child’s heart, that’s the best way to break it. And that’s also the first step toward cultivating gratitude. Right. Because now you’ve removed the expectation. And what they get now, they’re appreciative for it, and they’re not going to turn around and ask the next time they go to the store. No, and don’t do it twice in a row.

You have to do it periodically, and then it becomes a treat and it’s appreciated. So that’s one way, to me, that’s kind of the first step toward helping children cultivate gratitude.


Well, here I am getting ready to go out of town and visit my granddaughter, and I was thinking about, I need to take something, and I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know. That’s a thought. I never thought of that before.


You know, that’s so hard with grandparents. I have seven grandchildren. It is so incredibly hard. If every time you go to visit, you bring something, then the day does come when they are looking forward to what they’re going to get more than they’re looking forward to seeing you. It’s a hard habit to break. But one way you can do it again. You can bring something for your grandchild and then something to share. I love doing that concept most anytime. Giving them something to share rather than just something for them, but something that they can turn around and share with someone else. Another thought I had for you about kind of cultivating gratitude is a service, of course, and that’s to help your child, to serve others, and to help those who are less fortunate. And the old thing about Thanksgiving is such a great time.

I know some families who, on Thanksgiving afternoon, one of the activities they do is that they clean out their closets. The children go and clean out their closets and gather things that they take, and they donate sometime next week. And you take your children with you, of course, and don’t throw it in the back of the car and go do it. You need to take your children with you and donate things that are toys that they’re no longer playing with and not things that are in bad condition. That’s not the point at all, but to share things that they’ve enjoyed and that have meant something to them. And that’s a fun thing to do on Thanksgiving afternoon. And like I said, I know some families have made that kind of a ritual. We need to be thankful for what we’ve already been given.


I love that concept. That is so beautiful. You want to teach your kids that when you do something for them, they need to thank you and be appreciative. So, do you have any tips on doing that?


Let’s kind of broaden that a little bit, maybe to the courtesies kind of in a broader sense, because it does speak to a heart of gratitude. The whole idea of being courteous to others, that in and of itself is a heart of gratitude being put into action and into words. I’m a big proponent, I know, obviously, I’m from the south, but I’m still a very big proponent of everyone getting on our bandwagon of, yes, sir and no sir and yes ma’am and no, ma’am. And the reason for that, two reasons for that. When you’re thinking of the adult-child relationship, and again, trying to cultivate gratitude, the reason for yes sir and no, sir and yes women, no ma’am is simply because it sets the stage for a child to understand that there are adults and there are children and they are not on the same plane, and that there is to be respect. And it is simply showing respect. And it’s the first, simplest way that a parent can instill respect in a child. For authority is yes or no, sir, and yes ma’am, no ma’am.

It just befuddles me that so many people just don’t care for that. They just don’t agree with it. I hear it all the time when I travel and speak, and I always try to come back to help make the point. But it’s such a simple, very direct way to instill an attitude of respect because you don’t have to say yes, sir and no, sir to your peers, but you must say yes, sir and no, sir, yes, ma’am, no ma’am to adults. And it sets in place that first understanding of what respect means. Right. Particularly respect for authority. And out of that, of course, then follows the please.

I like to teach it in sign language to young children. I love to teach those five courtesies in sign language. Kids love it. And it kind of becomes something that exists between you and your child when they can say, thank you and they can say, you’re welcome, and they can say, please and I’m sorry, excuse me. And kids, of course, love to learn that.

And it’s just kind of a fun way of instilling those courtesies and reminding them that thank you and you’re welcome. I even love going through Chick fila because you’re always going to hear, “It’s my pleasure.”


Well, really, what you’re talking about is going all the way back to respecting the individual by saying, I was thrilled to do that for you. You can even be respectful of your peers, even though you wouldn’t be calling them sir and ma’am. That’s kind of the basis of what manners is all about.


Yes, it is. Our definition for manners is that manners is an attitude of the heart. That’s self-giving, not self-serving. It’s not memorizing the set of rules. That’s etiquette. Manners is a kind of an umbrella. Manners is the attitude behind the action. If we’re trying to instill gratitude in the heart of the child, then we must understand that the content of our child’s heart, whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, is what determines what they think, what they say, and what they do.

And so, we have to work in their hearts, not an expectation of Behavior. So much out here and a correction of Behavior. If there is Ingratitude out here, if you’re seeing selfishness in your child, then there’s a heart issue. It’s not the Behavior. That behavior is just simply a reflection of what’s going on in the Heart. So, you’ve got to get behind that behavior. We often like to say that respect in the Heart will Formulate Respect in the Mind, which comes out in the Actions. So, a Respectful Attitude toward things, which is where you want to work, is on the Attitude.

That’s where you can really see a change in a transformation. Not so much correction of the behavior, but correction of the Attitude behind the behavior.


I think you hit on something when you talked about the difference in manners and etiquette, because I’ve always thought of etiquette as, oh, goodness gracious, there’s a list of rules, but manners is being. Yes, yes, the difference is big.


So much so, Cynthia, it’s, you know, it truly is. I’ll tell you a sweet story that just happened in my neighborhood. I live in a cul de sac, and I have one neighbor on the right, and I have three neighbors in the circle. This happened just, like, three days ago. A little Ziploc bag was left in our Mailbox, and it had a note on it that had mom embossed on the top. And Walt, in a child’s Handwriting, W-A-L-T. It wasn’t a sentiment, but inside of it, it was a dollar bill and change, and it added up to $2.02. And so, my husband checked the Mail, and he said, oh, Walt must have stuck this in our Mailbox by mistake.

So he walked over to my neighbor, to return it. And Walt just turned three, and it was put in our mailbox intentionally, because Walt, in his precious little, tender heart and his very keen ears, he’s been tuned in to all the talk about the high cost of groceries and all the high cost at the pharmacy and especially the cost of gasoline, is out of control. And he told his mom that he wanted to give his neighbors some of his birthday money to help them buy gas for their cars.


So sweet.


Three years old. Three years old. Is that just the most precious thing?


Precious, that is.


Truly. Other synonyms. I mean, there is a full explanation of what it looks like, right? He saw a need. He recognized he could meet the need, and he. Very unselfishly, he was very grateful, right, for what he had received, and he wanted to share what he had received to help others.


That’s just great. Well, is there anything else you can add before we close?



I’ll close where we started. We started talking about self-esteem. What we try to do through all our programs and our books and everything that we do is help children learn how to esteem others. Right? How to put the needs of others ahead of their wants, how to, just, like little Walt, look for the needs of others and be the one to meet that need in someone else. And what happens is that it’s so beautiful.


Parenting Ahead: Build a Strong Foundation for the Teen Years

Parenting Ahead: Build a Strong Foundation for the Teen Years

Welcome to the Cynthia L Simmons podcast! In today’s episode, we have a special guest, Kristen Hatton, joining us to discuss her book “Parenting Ahead.” Parenting is a lifelong journey, and it’s crucial to start planning for the teen years and beyond. Kristen shares insightful tips on proactive parenting, measuring success, and how parenting can mature us as individuals. We delve into the difference between proactive and reactive parenting styles, as well as the influence of personal idols on our parenting decisions. Join us as we explore the challenges and joys of parenting and gain valuable insights from Kristen’s experiences and wisdom. Stay tuned for an engaging and thought-provoking conversation!

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Hope for a Disabled Child

Hope for a Disabled Child

Wonderful news: there’s hope for a disabled child.
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For another podcast on teaching a disabled child, click here.

Cynthia: Life is never what we expect it to be. And as parents, we sometimes are presented with challenges. The way to overcome those challenges is a dependence on the Lord. I have with me today, Annie Yorty. She had a child who has Down’s syndrome. And that is a whole bunch of stuff because as a nurse, I know that there’s a lot involved in that.

She’s going to talk a little bit about how she raised that child. And this is important because these days, people in many countries are aborting Down’s syndrome babies. It is considered to be by some people not worthy to live, and we believe as Christians that that child is worthy to live, but how do we deal with them?

And that’s the question we’re asking today. Welcome, Annie.

Annie: Hi, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to your audience.

Cynthia: Tell me a little bit about what you face and how you overcame that and how you’ve dealt with her issues.

Annie: Well, I have been dealing with these issues for 34 years now.

I find that hard to believe, but Alyssa came into my life 34 years ago, and I could not have been more surprised at the diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. It was a huge shock. It was life changing, like earthquake life, life changing. Before I had her, I had not really known much about the Lord at all.

And God used her and some of her challenges and other things about her that brought me into a much, much closer relationship with him.

Cynthia: I can agree with that. I do have my own disabled child, not Down’s syndrome, but it’s changed my life.

Annie: Life is all about depending on God. And frankly I could not have been more independent of God before I had her.

And he forced me into that position of needing to fall back and look to him and made me uncomfortable in many ways. From the time she was born, I knew nothing about people with disabilities. I did not know anything about Down’s syndrome. And I will say I applied my own self-reliance to that problem early on and found that it had no traction.

Little by little, through one experience after another, God kept showing me and bringing me closer into him. Things like medical questions. With Down’s syndrome, there can be a lot of medical uncertainty. Certainly, there are many, many delays.

So, it caused me to really adjust my worldview. You mentioned a minute ago about how in many countries and including our own, people abort children with Down’s syndrome at alarmingly high rates. I didn’t even know ahead of time, but I would not have considered abortion.

But I learned quickly that I had some perceptions about what makes people valuable that were way, way off base. They were more based on ability. What can a person do versus who they are? So that was a huge process for me to begin with.

Cynthia: I think that’s a really good point because people are valuable because God made them. They are made in his image and it’s easy for us to say, “That disabled child is not very smart or very pretty or very rich and so they’re not worth it.” But that’s not what scripture says.

Annie: Exactly. I’m very much a planner in life and a future oriented person. So, once I kind of grasp the Down’s syndrome thing, then I get into high gear. I laid out sort of a vision for her life to help us just guide the opportunities that we would want for her.

We could kind of aim towards something and that all included inclusion, public school, all of that kind of thing. We went headlong into that plan and then in 3rd grade that plan was just turned upside down.

We had moved, and the public school where we moved was not at all interested in doing any kind of inclusion for Alyssa. And that just wasn’t part of our plan for her. I went through two years of due process with them and ultimately won that case, but God turned my heart towards something else.

I realized that effort was not going to change their heart. She is not going to thrive there because they don’t want her to thrive in the environment that I was hoping for. So, God turned my attention to home schooling. Once I investigated that, I was hooked. And then I spent 16 years homeschooling her and another child.

Cynthia: So, what were some of the difficulties that she had and how did you adjust to accommodate her?

Annie: She has some excellent skills that we could really capitalize on, but she has some pretty serious deficits in the math side of things.

When teaching math, I probably went about that the wrong way for a good amount of time. I did it in a way that made sense to me, but it wasn’t great for her. I wasn’t capitalizing on her strength.

I was focused way more on her weaknesses. We really need to focus on strengths so that they can really feel that success and do what God meant them to do. God did not plan for Alyssa to be any kind of an accountant, a mathematician, but he had other plans for her.

That helps our children see what God made them to do and to be .I really, really struggled with writing for many years. We knew we wanted her to be able to write.

So, we really persevered. Like I said, over the course of years, she had learned to read relatively easily and then writing was so difficult.  I figured out she did not learn with phonics. That’s sort of the way I was going about the writing instruction.

Nevertheless, God’s grace just prevailed in all of that. She had previously learned what letters were and things like that, and she could write a letter. If you said, “Write the letter C,” she could write it, but she could not think of a sentence in her mind and then put it on paper.

And when she was in 3rd grade, I mean, we were just slogging through one day after another, just working and working at that. And one day, she just walked out of her room with a piece of paper. And there were three sentences written on that. So, I didn’t do that. It was just God’s grace.

That’s another thing I like to tell moms. It doesn’t all depend on us. We have a lot of responsibility as moms, but it certainly isn’t all in our hands. And sometimes I would get into that fallacy. You get very deep into the weeds and forget it.

God is superimposed over everything that you’re doing. Now Alyssa’s a good writer. She enjoys writing. She wrote a chapter in my book From Ignorance to Bliss.

Cynthia: That’s exciting. That’s good to know. What were some of her strengths?

Annie: Yeah, well, reading certainly was a strength.

She has a vivid imagination. She has ADD, which we don’t often think of as a strength. But her mind works very quickly, and so that’s a strength. She’s very verbal.

She has an extremely high vocabulary. She has read many, many books and that’s where her vocabulary comes from. She’s had many classics and there’s good vocabulary in those.

She likes to write. She likes to read. She has a superb memory. That can be a weakness sometimes, but that’s where her strengths lie.

Cynthia: I didn’t know that anyone like that would have the ability to read classics. I think your idea about focusing on strengths is a wonderful thing, even for people who have normal children.

Annie: I love that. Yes. My son has typical academic abilities and still has strengths and weaknesses. As far as other strengths go, my disabled daughter has a certain empathy for people where I think God uses her to kind of perceive underlying needs that I don’t necessarily notice.

And she connects with God in a way that I don’t. She doesn’t have some of the inhibitions that I might have, or you might have about responding to God. So, I think that’s a strength for her. It throws me out of my comfort zone sometimes, but it’s a strength.

Cynthia: That’s great. What kind of message would you give to a mother who is in that early stage where they’ve just found out they have a child who is disabled?

Annie: I would say, first. It’s normal to feel some grief.

I think most moms feel some grief when they learn their child is disabled. And frankly, at many other times in life at certain developmental stages, we’ll notice differences and our expectations must change. And there’s a certain grieving process that goes on at those times. But, when you first learn of the diagnosis, there’s that grieving process.

We also need to dig in with God. Throw questions at God. It’s, going to be ugly sometimes what you have to say to God, but he’s ready, willing, and able to hear you and respond to you.

And he’s a loving father who will step in and just guide and shepherd you along the way. He carries you. The Bible says he carries you from the time before you were born and into your old age. And I also suggest finding some like-minded people.

We found support groups early on some of them. In fact, many of them were not necessarily Christians and they were kind and helpful. But I think if you can find somebody who’s in the same boat with you, that is a Christian, that will really be good to just support you.

And you do need to ask for help. We lived for a good bit of our time with Alyssa away from family members. We felt a lot of burdens that, we couldn’t just take our kids and get a little bit of a break and that kind of thing.

So, we had to form relationships with other people and try to trade off and talk to people about feelings. Your friends with typical kids won’t necessarily understand or relate to you. So, it’s good if you can find some relationships like that.

Cynthia: I had a friend who had a disabled child, and she came to me one day with some questions. We were able to talk through some solutions that a person who didn’t have a disabled child wouldn’t comprehend at all.

So, it really is good to have people who are in a similar situation. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?

Annie: I want moms to know that each child is a gift from the Lord. There are no mistakes. Your child was designed by God and given to you, and you are the perfect mom for that child. And he wants to just show you what he’s doing in the middle of your circumstances, whatever they are. Isaiah 43:19 says, “God’s doing something new. Will you not perceive it?”

That’s the subject of my blog. I want to help people perceive God in whatever their circumstances, whether they’re wild circumstances, like getting a diagnosis, like Down’s syndrome, or the everyday kind of thing. My heart is to encourage people to see God and what he’s doing in their lives.

I have a podcast called ordinary moms of extraordinary kids. It’s a weekly dose of Bible encouragement for moms. It’s not lengthy, but it’ll give you a little shot of God’s word once a week.

Discover New Ways to Handle Your Child’s Anger

Discover New Ways to Handle Your Child’s Anger

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. Galatians 5:22

On the other hand, the fruits of the flesh includes outbursts of anger. And it’s tough when your child loses his cool in the grocery store.

My guest today is Author Tina Yeager, and she is a licensed counselor. She offered new ways to handle your child’s anger.

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For information on controlling your anger, click here

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