Five boys. Five loud, active boys with their own unique personalities and preferences. Personal tastes, too. So at dinner a week or two ago, several of them expressed those preferences and personal tastes to their mother (my daughter, Ashley), about her menu choices that night for dinner.

It was the end of a long day, as all days are for my daughter as mother to these boys and two foster children. Complaining about the food set before them–for which they did not have to pay or labor to prepare–was not what she needed or wanted. I often felt the same way with my kids when one or more of them expressed dissatisfaction with what I had labored to prepare for their nourishment. “Do I have to eat this?” is heard in millions of households, I would imagine.

Complaining is natural. It is easy. Takes no forethought. Gratitude is the opposite. It is rarely natural because it means thinking of another person above self. Which is why gratitude must be learned. Children must be trained to say thank you and that can begin as soon as they can learn a few basic signs or their first few words. And then reinforced for years and years by moms and dads who repeat, “What do you say?”

It reminds me of an old story, the one about the 10 men who were healed by Jesus. Miraculous and a never seen before occurrence was this act performed on their behalf. A life-changing gift had been given to them, an encounter with the God of eternity, and what was their response? Only one said thank you.

When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back. He praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him.

Luke 17:15

Nine walked away without a word of appreciation. It’s quite shocking, really. But then again it’s not. When our eyes and hearts are not trained to see the invisible source of “every good and perfect gift” that comes from God, then we quite literally are blind to that goodness. The nine cared only about what they got out of the deal and never had the thought that their newfound benefit might have come with a cost.

So how to handle the all-too-common mealtime griping? That depends on your values, of course, but you can simply say, “That’s fine. You do not have to eat it, but you will not get any other food until morning.” Most parents find that difficult, though it won’t hurt most American kids to be a little hungry at bedtime. Ultimately the lesson to be learned is less about food and more about attitude.

We all have likes and dislikes but learning a heart of gratitude for all His benefits is more important.

So stay strong, moms, with the thousands of reminders to say thank you. And pray faithfully for God to show each of your children their need for a Savior. Remember all your children were born selfish. Gratitude grows when they, and we parents, too, begin to see we deserve nothing. Then every meal, every gift, is more gratefully received.

{Editor’s Note: This article was first published on MomLife Today in October of 2012. Check out Barbara’s new venture over at Ever Thine Home!}