Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PPP #13 ~ Instilling Gratitude in our Children

Parenting Pointers Post #13
Help for the Frazzled Mom!
Based on Dr. Glenn I. Latham's book The Power of Positive Parenting

"Behave well. Good parenting is first a matter of teaching, second a matter of modeling, and never a matter of reacting." Dr. Glenn I. Latham

Do you ever feel like your children constantly want AND expect more things? Do they take care of and respect the stuff they already have? Are their Christmas lists already needing to be chopped in half?

Teaching children to be grateful can be a difficult thing in today's society of instant gratification. But it is so important and worth the effort when you realize how much their happiness depends on their gratitude quotient. How can they invite more into their life until they are grateful for what they already have? They can't.

Being grateful has many benefits that we all want our children to claim. For one thing, grateful people are so much more enjoyable to be around. But more importantly there is now evidence from recent scientific studies that show counting your blessings is very beneficial to your health!

Research conducted by Robert A. Emmons at the University of California at Davis and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, shows that people who consciously remind themselves everyday of the things they are grateful for show marked improvements in mental health and some aspects of physical health. In one study the participants kept a gratitude journal and listed each day four or five things for which they were grateful--even if it was just a beautiful day. “In just two to three weeks,” McCullough said, “they reported being happier.” And, “People close to them could see the difference too.” “With gratitude, there is virtually no down side,” said McCullough. And there’s a major upside: “Most grateful people have low rates of depression and negative moods—but high self-esteem.” There was evidence that gratitude is related to reduced risk of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, bulimia nervosa, nicotine dependence, alcohol dependence, and drug use/dependence. And an increase in better relationships."

That is reason enough to be grateful. The big question is - "Is gratitude something we are born with or can it be taught?" Gratitude does not come naturally to most people especially young children. It is most definitely something that can be taught. As you have heard before...gratitude is an attitude. It is a choice we make. And in order to teach it to our children we have to model it in ourselves first.

A simple, sincere expression of gratitude when the kids do something they are asked to do is always appreciated. Noticing the little things they do around the house may seem like too simple of a thing to make an impact, but it will. Even thanking them for putting their socks in the hamper (even if they have only done it one out of a hundred times!) will cause them to want to do it again because it was noticed AND appreciated. Appreciation and praise always goes a long way in getting the behavior repeated. We all like to be recognized when we do something.

Also model the behavior by thanking those people in your daily life. The sales clerk, the bus driver, the piano teacher. This will let them know that gratitude is a standard in your home. Letting your children see that you are grateful will encourage them to be so as well. Always remember to say thanks for the little things and teach them to as well. When someone has given my boys a ride somewhere, the first thing I ask them is if they remembered to say thanks for the ride. A couple of weeks ago, McKay walked in the door and the first thing he said before I could ask was, "Yes Mom, I said thanks for the ride." My boys seldom forget to thank either me or Dave for each meal. It has almost become a contest to see who says thanks for dinner first. That was taught by sheer repetition and reminding them when they forgot.

Another way to show gratitude is through prayer. By praying out loud, your children can hear you expressing thanks for your blessings. Remember to thank God for the blessing of your wonderful children stating each of their names individually and why you are thankful for them!

Another way to teach gratitude is by trying to go without. From time to time, have a family project that involves going without something important. For example, walk to your regular destinations instead of taking the car. Think of things that take a little sacrifice. Those things that will cause us to miss things that we take for granted will help us be a little more humble and grateful for, or toy, or whatever.

Volunteering or serving is a great way for your children to see gratitude in action. There are numerous chances in every community to volunteer. It feels good to help others and they also get to experience the warmth of appreciation.

Assign chores. This will give them an awareness of the amount of time and effort involved in so many of the things they think just magically get done. As they do the chores, they will learn to appreciate the other things we do for them.

Writing thank you notes is such a powerful way to help them feel the gratitude for what they have received. Putting down on paper what they enjoyed about a particular gift, reminds your children why they are grateful for it.

Don't keep your gratitude to yourself! When you feel thankful for certain people in your life, be bold enough to say it out loud or put it in a letter. One of the great tragedies in life is that, too often, we just don't know what we mean to others. When you feel appreciation towards others, tell them!

Try and find the good in each situation.
1. "Oh it's raining, AGAIN. But, I remembered my umbrella!"
2. "My car broke down. But, look at all this exercise I am getting now!"
3. "It is so cold outside today. I am so grateful I have a warm coat to keep me warm!"

4. "I've never seen so many dirty dishes! But that meal was really delicious!"
5. "Will this laundry ever be done? I guess not as long as we are blessed enough to have clothes to wear!"
6. "The electricity was out all night. We had a perfect excuse to order dinner delivery, eat by candlelight, and go to bed early!"

Are you starting to get the picture?

Our children will learn to be grateful as we model it for them. Being grateful may not be something we all just naturally feel or automatically do. It takes some effort. But remember the reward is always worth it!

Check out this video of the GRATITUDE DANCE!!!

As always...good luck, and as Dr. Latham used to say:


Audrey said...

I can't quit smiling since watching that gratitude video! I love your post!

Anonymous said...

Oh this was so good! Thanks for doing these! The video was inspiring!


Kelsee said...

This is all so true and such a great reminder! The hardest part is being the example!

Thanks for the kick in the pants!

Shultzybabe said...

I very much needed to see this post! Thanks, Jodi!


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