I didn't learn too much about gratitude when I was a kid. I do remember my parents telling me to be grateful (usually during some of my especially bratty moments) but that didn't sink in like I'm sure they wanted it to. That may be because gratitude was spoken of only when there was a situation in which to criticize me for NOT being grateful for something.
I do want to say at this point that my parents are amazing and that they have taught me some profound life lessons... It's just that gratitude wasn't something that was focused on in a consistent manner when I was growing up.
As I've grown older, the realization of how important gratitude is has come to my awareness, and boy, am I grateful for that. I have been actively practicing gratitude in my life for about a year now...meaning that I have a gratitude journal which I write in at least 5 times a week before I go to bed, and whenever I am smack dab in the middle of a situation that I could feel really crappy about if I so chose to, I instead flip it around to look at the bright side.
Although I have been personally practicing gratitude and learning incredible life lessons from doing so, it dawned on me that I wasn't letting my kids in on that lesson. I was doing to them what was done with me when I was a kid - waiting until they were being particularly bratty or selfish before I mentioned gratitude to them. Which means that bringing up gratitude to them always stemmed from a place of negativity and criticism. Things like this were said by me often: "You don't want to eat your dinner?? Do you realize how grateful you should be for even having food on your plate?" or "That phone isn't the one you want? Do you realize how grateful you should be to even have a phone??" etc. When it struck me that this is I was shaping gratitude in a completely negatively light to my kids, I realized I had to make a change. I wanted them to have a good feeling surrounding gratitude and not have to wait until they acting like entitled brats before I brought up the G-word. Here is one thing that we have implemented in my home since my realization that our gratitude conversations had to change:
After we say Grace at the dinner table, we then go around the table and each family member says one thing we're grateful for. It's interesting to see what my kids say and whatever they say always opens up a conversation at the dinner table about it. I can get clues into my teenage daughter's day (her gratitude statement is usually tied to her school day), and my 4 year old daughter has said she's grateful for all sorts of things - from her preschool friends to yummy dessert. She completely lights up when it's her turn to talk. My 3 year old son says he's grateful for his race cars every. single. time. Which makes us all laugh. It'll be a funny story to tell later on. Also, I get to know a little bit about my husband's day as well from what his gratitude statement is since it's always relevant to what he's going through.
We've had great success with this in helping my kids to remember all the things in their life that they are blessed to have. Now my kids even ask me randomly throughout the week what I am grateful for. This makes me certain that this lesson is taking hold with them. It warms my heart to know that they are being shaped, early on, to think about gratitude in positive terms. Of all the thousands and thousands of things I am grateful for, this is one of the biggest ones one on my list.
In Love and Health,