This is going to sound like a cliche, but gratitude starts on a simple level. It is something we learn either consciously through applied, intentional learning, more often as an adult; Or, we learn it subconsciously, more often as a child, by the people in our lives. By the things we are exposed to repeatedly from a young age.
I can say, I only became conscious about gratitude and the impact it has on the way I experience life, as an adult. I see how beautifully my world has transformed since I began to consciously focus on all the great things in my life and truly revel in their magnificence, no matter how small.
I don’t want my son to be late to the gratitude party. I don’t want him to live life focused on the things he wants rather than celebrate what he already has. Glass half full kind of concept right?
Gratitude is a feeling. That feeling holds energy more powerful than anyone can imagine. When you feel grateful on a genuine, regular and consistent basis, there is nothing in this world you can’t have.
Think about gratitude on a simple level. I want to give you two scenarios:
Scenario 1: I give a coworker one cookie from a jar full of cookies. (By the way my cookies are amazing) Her response is WOW, thank you so much for this cookie why did you only give me one? Next time you make these amazing cookies, can I get at least two?
Scenario 2: I give you one cookie from a jar full of cookies. Your response is Wow this cookie is amazing. I love cookies, thank you for thinking of me.
Who do you think I am more likely to give another cookie to, the person who seemed ungrateful when I gave them one or you the person who genuinely enjoyed the fact that I did something I didn’t HAVE to do.
I know I simplified this a lot but this very simplistic level of thinking is the way the Universe sees gratitude. Energy is energy. It doesn’t matter how big or small the “thing” is that you’re grateful for, what matters is the power of the feeling behind it.
My desire as a parent is for my child to live a life filled with gratitude because I want him to have everything good this world has to offer. I want to share with you, some of the steps I take in my home to ensure my child subconsciously has a mind frame of gratitude.
Before bed take turns with your child stating what you’re grateful for that day. Start with the number of your child’s age (up to 10). 2 yr. old, say two things, 5-year-old, say five things, and so on. This is part of Mali and my night time routine. We do this just after our bedtime story.
Practice being grateful aloud. I think we sometimes underestimate how much attention our children are paying to us. How many times do you get a coupon while out shopping and say things like “oh great! I wish I had gotten this last week when I needed it”. You may not mean any harm and probably didn’t think of it twice but you’re kid heard it. Remember gratitude starts on a simple level. Sometimes we have to re-adjust our own mindsets to be able to teach our children.
Encourage them to be excited when good things happen to other people. This is a huge one for me. When good things happen whether it was to you or not, it was still a GOOD thing. Let your kids see you get excited about other peoples success. Example: they didn’t get the prize in class today, ask them who got it and why and then encourage them to congratulate and be excited for their peer.
Journaling is huge in my house. If you aren’t taken some time to do some sort of journaling, I encourgae you to do so and start in a very simple way. Remember those 10 things from number 1, an easy way to start is to write those down. Have your little one join in, and if they can’t write yet, have them draw a picture instead of something they’re grateful for. This is a good way to get them in the habit of journaling.
I’ve heard stories of parents not taking the time to thank their children for things they do. The easiest way to teach gratitude is to show gratitude! Don’t feel ashamed to thank your children for specific things they do. Not just thank them but give specific details of how those things make you feel.
Create a gratitude jar or box. Let them help you pick it out and maybe even decorate it. Make it a fun activity. Place it somewhere well visible in the house, and encourage your child to write a note or draw a picture, to place in the jar at least once a week but also whenever they want to in between. You can create a new tradition and choose a day in the year to open the box i.e Christmas, Thanks Giving, Birthdays, etc.
Practice kindness in front of them. Kindness is huge on the scale of gratitude. Go out of your way to be kind to both people you know and strangers. Again, it’s simple: compliment strangers, make someone smile for no reason without expecting anything in return. The next thing I’m going to say is probably something you won’t think of; practice kindness to YOURSELF. Anything you wouldn’t say to a stranger, DON’T say it to yourself. Not silently inside of your head and definitely not aloud for your little one to hear. Examples: this makes me look fat, I hate my nose. My hands are so ugly.
Have your child write a thank you note to their teacher, on a random Wednesday. Don’t wait until Teacher Appreciation week or Christmas or fill in the blank “expecting” occasion.
Encourage them to think about small ways to make other people smile. Small things like bring flowers to a friend or family member when it’s unexpected. Example: At the grocery store, ask them if they think there’s something, they can pick up for whoever. Soon they’ll be asking you if so and so would like something. They will start thinking of other peoples’ happiness as their own. My son always enjoys picking flowers for his grandmother. Not because he loves flowers but because he knows she does and he loves the way it makes her feel and in turn, makes him feel.
Tell them what you love about them and be specific so it sounds real and like you truly thought about it. Example: I love your arms because you give the best hugs. I love your smile because it makes me want to smile. I love your eyes because of the way you see this world.
These 10 simple acts will help to ensure your child(ren) live in a mindset of gratitude daily. Tell me in the comments what ways you show your children to be grateful humans.