Every year as we move from the rush of back to school and Halloween into the more retrospective holiday of Thanksgiving, I think about how to truly teach myself and my kids to be grateful. We live in a “have whatever you want, whenever you want” culture that makes it hard to see all of the good things we already have around us. Last year, I wrote about how to cultivate a wider perspective to help us recognize those things in Developing Gratitude: It’s Not Just a ‘Thank You’. This year, in light of my attempts to model values to my kids through my Let Them See You series, I wanted to find ways for my kids to see me feeling grateful and putting that emotion into action.
Gratitude generally comes as a response to other situations in life. I had trouble thinking of ways to create those kinds of situations. In the end, I think it’s more about creating awareness of what is already around you. Here’s what I came up with:
It’s cliché, especially around this time of year, but it gets the job done. Choose a time when you’re all together and each say one thing you feel grateful for, whether in your day or just from life in general. As a parent, you can make your answer more meaningful by connecting it to your kids and the world beyond your family. So, instead of simply saying, “I’m grateful we have food on the table,” you could elaborate and say, “I’ve seen documentaries on families in other countries that have to try to feed their children with just a bowl of rice and dirty water. That would be so hard for me to see you suffer and not be able to give you what you need. I’m so grateful to have food available whenever you might need it.”
Be Aware in Everyday Situations
People do nice things all the time around us. Taking the time to notice and thank someone holding the door open, or letting you into traffic, helps teach your kids to see the small good things in life as well as an attitude of appreciation.
Go Through Your Closet
I’m always asking my kids to go through their clothing to get rid of what they don’t use, but they rarely see me doing the same. Usually, that sort of thing happens gradually as a shirt gets too worn or pants don’t fit right. We can let our kids see us intentionally going through our clothes, books, and knick-knacks for the specific purpose of giving them to people who don’t have as much as we do.
Appoint Your Kids the Complaining Police
I saved this one for last because I’m already dreading it! Explain to your kids the difference between complaining and expressing a need. Then ask them to listen carefully for complaining from you. Every time they catch you, you have to rephrase the complaint as something that makes you grateful. So, “Ugh! What’s with all of this stupid traffic?” might become, “I’m thankful that I have a car to go fun places.”
My hope is that through my efforts in the past and by modeling it in my own life, my kids will develop a view of the world that recognizes all of the good things they have around them. Maybe someday, that recognition will motivate them to make the world better for others with less.
If you want a great way to further grow your own sense of gratitude, check out The Art of Gratitude: 6 Ways to Find the Silver Linings and Top 12 Benefits for Starting a Gratitude Journal.