We are moving toward Thanksgiving, a time of year when we hopefully find some time to reflect on the many good things in our lives. It can be hard in times of emotional or financial turmoil to find the good in the world. I have been asked recently how I would suggest teaching gratitude to a young child.
Well. I have bad news for someone looking for a list of training exercises you can do with your child. I do not believe you can sit them down and point out things they should be thankful for in their lives. I can still hear my grandmother telling me about the starving children in India, Africa and our hometown, who would devour the meal I was refusing to eat. I can hear myself occasionally telling my 14 year son and daughter, how good they have it today with cell phones, ipods and cable television. The words just do not register. ACTIONS DO.
One of my favorite books is written by a monk named David Steindl-Rast. In Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness he emphasizes the need each day to be grateful for all of the things in your life, the good and the bad. Check out his web site for some great references http://www.gratefulness.org. Today’s business books are full of the need to be thankful to our families and co-workers as we move through our business days.
Now back to the question at hand. How do we help our children and family members become more thankful or grateful? Here is the hard part. We have to model grateful behavior for them!!!! We cannot express frustration in the car in the ATM line or in any of the myriad lines we stand in when the person in front of you takes forever to organize themselves. In the book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, author Marshall Goldsmith, suggests taking a few days and writing down every comment or opinion you express. His research indicates a high number of those comments will be of a critical nature. Think about what your children hear from you, either about themselves, their friends or things in your daily life.
And when you say Thank You, look the person in the eye and mean it! How often have we experienced some type of service, we throw out a quick thank you, while we continue to text or talk on the phone or hustle the kids out the door. Slow down. Try this at the end of the day. Tell your kids and family members how grateful you are that they are in your lives. Too dramatic? Try saying thanks when they finish cleaning up after dinner and do not focus on the little things they forgot to do. Just be grateful they are there with you.
To our kids, Maureen and Katie, who were in visiting this past weekend from Ohio with their great husbands, Matt and Eric, we want to say thanks for coming and remember we love you and miss you all every day!