By Lisa Reichelt, Parent Coach
Did you know that it is impossible to be stressed and grateful at the same time? It’s true. Gratitude is a strong deterrent to the negative emotions that cause us to become stressed with the pressures of daily life. Each day the demands of living build up and become unruly, but by practicing gratitude you will have a strong defense against those emotions ruling your life. In addition, gratitude helps you to celebrate your present circumstances and improves your feelings of self-worth. Think about it, when you are grateful you actually experience a warm feeling inside. You recognize the goodness that is happening for you in the moment. You ARE in the moment! Wouldn’t you love to bring this power to your family by raising grateful children?
Be a Role model
Raising children who are grateful should be the goal of every parent. But gratitude doesn’t come naturally. We are not born grateful, instead we learn this skill from the environment that we live in. Years ago I worked alongside a third grade teacher who knew how to teach his students to practice gratitude. They were known as the most polite and thankful class in our school every year! This wasn’t accidental. He taught them the skills and expected them to use them. He also modeled gratitude with everyone he encountered. By teaching his students to be polite and grateful he was also teaching them empathy and boosting their self-worth. They were thinking of others instead of themselves. These are pro-social behaviors that combat self-centeredness, entitlement and anxiety.
How do parents teach their children to be grateful? It must be deliberate. You can’t depend on children becoming grateful without explicit instruction and modeling. So, the first step is to practice gratitude yourself and the second step is to implement practices that will produce gratefulness in your children.
Here are some suggestions:
- Start a Good Things Jar– decorate a jar, when a good thing happens take a small notecard, write the date and a short sentence about the event, place the note into the jar, read the notes as a family once a week, once a month, or perhaps not until New Years!
- Choose books to read that model gratitude– picture books are fun for everyone, even older children. Take a few minutes after a family meal each week to read a good story about gratitude. A couple of my favorites are “Last Stop on Market Street” and “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.” Also, a quick google search will bring up many more titles for you to choose from.
- Notice gratitude in others – at the end of each day have a challenge as a family to come up with as many examples of gratitude from the day as you can. See who has the most and record the winner on your calendar. In addition to learning about thankfulness you will enjoy the friendly competition that occurs.
- Write Thank You notes– the holiday season just ended, but did your children impress you by expressing thanks? Or were you constantly reminding them to say thank you? This would be a good time to sit down as a family and write Thank You notes. Notes sent in the mail are special and everyone loves to receive a handwritten letter. You could even mail a thank you note to your own child.
- Take a Thankfulness Walk– taking a walk together as a family is a bonding experience because you can share things you are thankful for as you journey on your route. Making these walks a regular practice (weekly/daily) creates a tradition for your family and enhances feelings of gratitude.
- Write a Gratitude Journal– create an individual or family journal that records ways you have shown gratitude, ways others have shown you gratitude and/or things that cause you to be grateful. Besides modeling how to write in a journal, you will be teaching your children the skill of gratitude.
- Generosity Challenge– As a family challenge yourselves to do one thing each month that qualifies as being generous to others. Here are a few ideas:
- Give away some of your belongings to the needy
- Make a meal for a neighbor who is ill or recuperating
- Bake cookies for someone to cheer them up
- Write letters to service men and women
- Visit the elderly in a senior living center
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter
You certainly won’t tackle all these suggestions at one time, but as a family, choose one or two that can start you on the journey towards raising grateful children. It will change your life. Let us know how you are doing by joining our Facebook Group.
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