Probably not often enough! They are two very simple words sometimes forgotten in the rush and bustle of life, but words that should not be taken for granted! You always hear (or should hear!) people say to their children, “What do you say?” to prompt them to say “thank you” - words your children should learn to automatically say without the prompt. It should just come naturally, but that is up to the parents to teach their children gratitude. Words of appreciation will take them a long way in life.
It’s like that little smile or wave from someone that changes your mood in a single moment. I know when I let someone into a line of traffic and get a big wave out the window it makes me feel like I’m a good person for letting them in (sounds a little silly) but how many people either don’t even think about giving you a little wave? They obviously are one of those miserable people or they have just never been taught to be thankful even for such a little thing.
More and more these days I hear people talking about how our younger generation feel entitled and don’t seem to appreciate all the wonderful things they have in life. Even when we go through bad times, maybe you have nothing to be grateful for today… fine! We all have bad days. Instead, just be grateful for something in the future. If your life is crummy, think about what you’re looking forward to tomorrow, this weekend or next month and focus on being happy for what is on the horizon.
I read recently in an article that kids who understand gratitude have better grades and are less likely to get depressed. Specialists say it is important to make children do their chores and express thanks for their meals and other gestures, that it will teach them gratitude. I remember growing up, we gave thanks before our meal and again after to our mother for making it just for us; we even washed the dishes and put them away before we were allowed to leave the kitchen. I believe this taught me gratitude and I know I always say “thank you” to people I don’t even know for even a small gesture.
As adults, whenever you enjoy a small pleasure, contemplate what life would be without it. As you go through your day, mentally label as a gift anything you might ordinarily take for granted. Don’t think of it as your morning cup of coffee or evening glass of wine – it’s a gift of coffee, the gift of wine.
Download a Gratitude Journal App so you can record your thoughts anytime, anywhere. Every day, list 5 things you’re grateful for. You can set up regular reminders and a daily inspirational quote to keep you bright and sunny all day long.
Teaching children to be grateful may a bit of a bigger challenge, but the sooner you start the sooner you have the ability to change your child’s life. Kids do not know how big or little your paycheque is. Kids do not understand what income tax or mortgages and credit card debit is. However, depending on their age, they do know how much a Nintendo DS game cartridge costs. They know how much a Wii costs. Or, a slice of pizza or a bottle of Gatorade. This is their vocabulary—their understanding of values in our material world. We can work with that. And to get our kids to understand the meaning of gratitude, we must.
The two areas that probably are the most important are food and play: With food, kids nowadays tend to be horribly picky and wasteful (when I was a kid, we ate what was put in front of us and we liked it). It is getting out of hand – kids eat horrible diets today because they are just being “fed.”
Susan Roberts, a pediatric occupational therapist and author of My Kid Eats Everything wrote: In the past, until about the mid-20th century, kids joined families in the kitchen, helping to prepare food, setting the table, clearing the table, and washing the dishes. Among them, as Roberts terms them, “multi-causal factors that have contributed to the decline in children being involved in meal preparation and clean up” are: changes in agriculture making it easier for restaurants to sell food cheaply, the increase in convenience stores, and more women at work. “People eat out much more often,” she said, so kids are not eating what’s available, they are ordering what they want. Roberts actually tells families that even if they go out to restaurants, the parents should still order the food for the child. “We have to put the parents back in charge of food. Right now, it’s the children who are in charge so, of course, they’re going to eat gummy bears and goldfish crackers.” Long ago, Roberts reminds, children even caught their family’s food. (theeatlantic.com)
Teaching children to be grateful for their toys may even be a bigger challenge because they just have so many. I remember getting mittens, a jewelry box (which I still have) and a sewing kit for Christmas and I was thrilled! Oh yes and a mouse trap game. I must confess, I was as guilty as most with my own children, giving them way too much growing up and I have a picture of our front room practically filled to the hall with toys, so I really don’t have room to talk, but I’m thinking I would have done it differently if given the chance again.
As parents, despite wanting to give our kids everything, one of the greatest gifts we can give is to literally give less, to force decision-making and awareness among all their choices. It’s not easy to watch your kids struggle—but in the end, it does breed gratitude. And there is no question that these lessons are most effective if you start early and consistently through every child’s primary stage.
I’m extremely glad my days of raising a family are behind me; it most certainly has its ups and downs and so many learning curves for all involved, but as I look at all my children now, I could not be more proud of each and every one of them. They all turned out to be incredibly wonderful, grateful, independent and special people. Even though I made many, many mistakes and carried a bit of guilt around for years, I guess I didn’t do such a bad job after all.
Just love them – that’s the most important part of all!!