Throughout all the brainstorming, writing, sending, posting, and receiving feedback on my Gratitude On Purpose course, I’ve obviously had gratitude on my mind A TON. I speak my gratitude more often, and I notice it (or the lack of it) in others way more than I have before.
Adults can be hard to read; we get really good at wearing whatever mask is appropriate to the occasion. Young children, however, are a different story. When you watch children interact–with each other or with grownups–it’s easy to see whether a family has a culture of gratitude or not.
I want our family to have a culture of gratitude.
And here’s the part that I find interesting: there is a difference between being polite and being grateful.
Saying “thank you” is polite. For better or worse, parents tend to insist that their children say thank you often. Especially to adults and in group situations. We saw a lot of this on Halloween, as parents (myself included!) would remind their kids, “What do you say?” after they got yet another handful of candy.
But how many kids, once they got home, took a moment to actually be grateful for the generosity of their neighbors? How many parents, away from the eyes of other judging parents, reminded their kids to be thankful for all the Skittles and Snickers?
I don’t think I did. I kind of wish I had.
Because I don’t want my children to perform gratitude. I want them to feel grateful.
The best way I know to teach my children anything is to model it. I can talk about it all day, but if I’m not practicing what I preach, they know the difference.
When they see and hear me being grateful, they 1) see that it’s important to me and 2) learn how to do it themselves.
So I want to make a bigger effort to model my gratitude for my kids. I might be feeling it and thinking about it all the time, but unless they see i
Here are the things I plan to do:
- Say thank you out loud more often.
- Give positive reinforcement when I hear them do the same.
- Pray my gratitude where my children can hear. (Confession: this is hard for me. I am very private about my prayers and our family prayers are usually said by one of the kids. I want to work on this)
- Point out other people showing gratitude.
- Remind them of things that have happened in the past through the lens of gratitude. (i.e. “Remember when Aunt Liz gave you those pretty seashells? Aren’t you grateful to have such a good aunt who loves you so much?”)
- Encourage but not put such a big premium on politeness.
Because I do want my kids to be polite, but I don’t want them to be resentful or hypocritical about it. I want them to really mean it when they say “thank you.” And I think the other stuff will help use move toward that.
This is a new challenge for me. For most of the last seven years, I was more focused on making sure my kids were simply alive! More and more, though, I’m realizing how much work I need to do to help them become decent humans.
Or at least not crush the goodness they came prepackaged with. I mean…the things they do sometimes just melt me.
Help me out: what do you do to cultivate a culture of gratitude in your home? How do you help your kids develop an attitude of gratitude without just forcing politeness?