Teaching the attitude of gratitude

The simplest way to feel like you have everything going for you is through plain old gratitude. Think of all the old sayings like, "count your blessings," "it could be worse," or "stop and smell the roses,"  the point is the same. We're happier with what we have when we're thankful for it. Noticing the good in life makes it mean more. It makes sense that our children will feel the same way, but we have to teach them how.

I've always liked that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. Thanksgiving is a time to look over the year and give thanks for the good, be it health, success, or just surviving a bad year, but especially for our families and friends. We all have so much to be glad for in our lives, no matter what's gone wrong. Giving thanks for the good comes first, and a month later, we put the year to bed by giving and receiving those lovely gifts to celebrate each others' love and friendship. Whether you're religious or not, there's so much value in teaching your children thankfulness and giving.

How do we teach kids to be gracious?  Parents may secretly wonder -- is it bad that my child seems so greedy? Well, actually it's natural for them to want more. Our ancestors who competed to fill basic needs probably survived because they had that instinct to grab what they wanted, regardless of what anyone else got. But we don't need to do that anymore. We can survive without grabbing everything we see. We have to learn not to let that greedy instinct win over. And we learn it from each other. Just like learning to share, and hug, and cooperate.

We have to be taught to be happy with what we have. It's a skill, just like learning how to open a bottle. When you know how to take a moment to be glad for what you have, you'll find you're happier with your life. Our children pick up our attitudes. If you're happy with what life gives you, that is what your children will learn.

We also have to create moments where gratitude can be taught. Thank-you notes to Grandma are a good example. Reminders to say thank you to those who do nice things are good, too. But we also need to show kids the art of being thankful, by thanking them, too. Respecting our child's little gifts during a day helps them learn to respect your gifts of love, concern, care, and teaching.

Gratitude is a skill we need to model, and to require from our kids. Saying thank you may feel like an obligation, it may even seem a little insincere, but that doesn't mean it's ok to leave it out of your child's upbringing. Like saying "I'm sorry," saying thank you may seem like just a bunch of words to the child at first. Don't worry, the feelings will come, too.You can help your child think about these little acts by asking them, "how do you feel when..." By doing this you're helping them slowly learn insight into other people's feelings. That's the first step toward being a good friend.

You can help your child feel abundance in life by discussing everyday events to highlight the good. Try sitting with your child for a few moments, maybe before dinner, or during their bedtime ritual. Talk about the good things that have happened. Ask them, what are they happy for? Children may name stuffed animals, or a grandparent, or a friend at school. Encourage them to think of the humbler things: a warm comfy bed, a good dinner, with breakfast on its way in the morning. Tell them the humble things you're grateful for. This way you're making thankfulness a daily part of life. They (and you) will begin to look at their day for examples of things to be grateful for.

That's the real secret to a sense of abundance. You don't need a lot of stuff to feel you have all you need, or to be happy, you just need to appreciate what you have. And children who learn this lesson will be able to draw strength from it throughout their lives.

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies