Teaching Kids to be Grateful
In our society, many are surrounded by entitlement, scarcity culture, and the desire for more more more. Our kids pick up on this from other kids, enticing advertisements geared toward children, the oh so convenient kid items near the counters when you’re checking out at Target to encourage your kids to ask for them as you’re paying and trying to get out of there..
Robert Emmons, one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude and psychology professor at UC Davis said, “We have discovered that a person who experiences gratitude is able to cope more effectively with everyday stress, may show increased resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress, and may recover more quickly from illness and benefit from greater physical health. Our research has led us to conclude that experiencing gratitude leads to increased feelings of connectedness, improved relationships, and even altruism.”
So, practice gratitude daily with your children. I think this is the most important point of this blog post. Make a point each and every day to let them know something you appreciate or love about them; the way they helped take care of their sister, the fact that they picked up their toys without being reminded, the warmth of their bear hug, their smile being the sunshine in your day. Kids learn more from what we model than what we tell them to do! By practicing this regularly, it becomes a habit.
When it comes to birthdays and holiday, remember the giver. Don’t just focus on the gift! When they’re playing with the toy, reading the book, wearing the outfit, etc. talk about who gave them gifts to help them connect the gift to the giver.
Find the positive in difficult situations or seasons. When your child has an epic tantrum when you are trying to get out the door, remind yourself that you’d probably rather have the tantrum at home rather than at the park. When you get a flat tire, remind yourself you’re thankful that you have a car. This doesn’t mean to ignore the negative things, the heartbreak, the gut wrenching times in your life. Those have a place too, and are things to sit with and work through. Since practicing gratitude can actually make us feel happier and more peaceful, it’s more likely that we’ll experience less stress in these difficult situations, and when we’re less stressed, we’re usually happier parents.
Give things a new home. A few times a year, have your children work WITH you while you’re cleaning out closets and toys (before birthdays and holidays are a good time for us). Talk about how fortunate they are to have these things and how important it is to pass them on to someone else who will need and enjoy these items that they no longer use.
And remind yourself of this: you are blessed to have your children and will strive to be the parent you want to be for them.