One of our tasks, as parents, is to teach our kids to be grateful. It’s an attitude that will serve them well for the rest of their life. They’ll be able to find blessings in every circumstance, achieve unshakeable contentment and peace, and be filled with positive energy. Plus, they don’t whine at the dinner table (which is good enough for us!). Here are some parenting tips to raise kids who have the attitude of gratitude.
Parenting tip # 1: Write down what you’re grateful for.
Every so often, sit down with your kids and make a ‘Family List of Blessings.’ What are you happy for? Ask every member of the family to contribute something to that list. You can even get one of those mini-albums (sold in scrapbook stores) and have kids decorate the list with pictures, drawings and scrapbook embellishments.
Don’t be dismayed if your kids mention mostly material things—at least, they know they’re lucky to have them! But prompt them to think about the blessings that money can’t buy. Concrete questions help: ‘What do you like best about having a big brother?’ or ‘What did you like most about your Grandma?’ This will help them realize that experiences and people can make them just as happy—even happier—than toys and gadgets.
Parenting tip # 2: Call attention to the happy moments.
Let’s admit it: we parents are often guilty of speaking up only when things are bad. ‘What a mess in the kitchen!’ or ‘The traffic was horrible!’ Let’s go out of our way to speak up when we see something great! ‘I love this weather? The breeze is so refreshing.’ Or, ‘The traffic may be bad, but hey, they’re playing my favorite song on the radio!’ This teaches kids to actively look for life’s little miracles, and give thanks for it.
Parenting tip # 3: Say thank you to people.
Your child notices when you take a few extra seconds to thank the supermarket cashier or to give an extra tip to the sales clerk who went out of her way to find the dress size you needed.
Parenting tip # 4: Teach gratitude, not guilt.
Guilt makes you feel ashamed for having more or asking more: ‘You should be glad you have food! Other kids are starving!’ or ‘I work so hard just to put you through school, and you never appreciate it!’ Gratitude cultivates a sense of joy and abundance, so you realize what you have and want to give back. ‘We’re all lucky to have this delicious meal. Let’s pray right now for those who don’t have any’ or ‘Honey, could you give me a big hug? You make me feel really special when you greet me with a hug when I come home from work.’
Parenting tip # 5: Don’t give in to every request.
Don’t create a ‘gimme’ habit by indulging each of your child’s whims. Delayed gratification helps them appreciate what they have, and also helps them sort out what they really, really want (many of their whims are impulsive, and they’l forget about it within days or weeks).
Making kids work for what they want also teaches them to value what they have. A toy they saved up for from dollars earned by doing errands will be far more appreciated than something that they got after 10 minutes of whining.
Photo from larkneville.com