People who are caring, who take the time to extend themselves to others and their world, tend to be grateful. Rather than feeling deprived and shortchanged, they are aware of the goodness in their lives and give to others out of this fullness. Cultivating gratitude is one of the best things you can do for your children. But how? I’ve split up this challenge into two categories. If you don’t find something here to apply in your own home, these suggestions will likely inspire other ideas.
1) Teach your children gratefulness to others. This can be fostered by tracing things in your everyday life back to the hard work of a farmer or scientist or woodworker, etc. When I found out that 30,000 beans are culled to make one pound of coffee, for example, I had a greater appreciation for my cup of brew each morning. In a kid’s world, a trip to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield or a Pick-it-Yourself farm in Brentwood could make the same impression. But it doesn’t have to take a field trip. In your daily conversation, call attention to the hands that have labored for your kids’ benefit. And don’t forget your own! It’s okay to tell your children about the sacrifices you make, as long as you’re not screaming about it. My wise friend Ian asks his two-year old, “Do you know why Daddy made you breakfast?” His daughter, as she has been taught, replies, “Because Daddy loves me!”
2) Teach your children gratefulness for life. Especially for the blessings that go way beyond our control, such as our very life and breath, nature in all its beauty, power, and hilarity, and our good fortune to be born in a place of privilege. Why were we so lucky to be born here, in beautiful California, and not in a tent village somewhere? We do not need reasons, just gratefulness.
One practical way to teach this kind of gratitude is by saying grace before meals. Even if you are not a person of faith, you can memorize a simple prayer or merely pause and call to mind what you are thankful for. As a parent, you want to give your children opportunities to grow in all areas, including spiritually. Going one step farther, “grace” can be said before bedtime and pretty much anytime, whether audible or privately.
Teach your kids gratefulness. As they become genuinely caring people, they will be grateful you did!
By Gail Perry Johnston. Gail Perry Johnston is author of a collection of stories on satisfying acts of service called The Social Cause Diet, available on Amazon and www.socialcausediet.com.