It’s early November as I write this – the day after the election. My candidate didn’t win, but I’m thankful, nonetheless. I’m thankful to live in a country where I was allowed to participate in the process. I’ve spent a good bit of time reading all the rabid political posts on Facebook before I finally decided to squeeze both my eyes shut and just stick my fingers in my ears. It occurs to me that this is my first election since joining the social media revolution. I must say that I, for once, in no way feel enhanced by its presence. Many of the comments have been so unkind – almost more negativity than I can bear.
Fortunately, though, what catches my attention even more than all the nuclear post-election comments, are the daily “things I’m thankful for” posts made by so many of my friends. I’m guessing this is a recently delivered church sermon theme, as it seems that so many people are posting each day – and numbering them, in order. Some of the posts are silly (one being thankful for crunchy Cheetos), some are accompanied by photos (lots of pictures of families, kids and pets) – but all of them are sincere – and it’s their “attitude of gratitude” that motivates me to write this today.
I started thinking about my son and how important it is to ensure that he understands the concept of being thankful in what I consider to be a largely thankless world. I don’t know about you, but I am of the age where I’m keenly aware of the sense of entitlement that our young people seem to have today – and I believe it’s purely generational. It’s not even their fault. They’ve just never known what it is to do without. Think about it.
Teaching a child to look beyond their one-person universe, no doubt, can be tricky – but kids who aren’t taught to be grateful, end up with those feelings of self-entitlement and are constantly disappointed. And if that’s not reason enough to appreciate, grateful people report higher levels of happiness and optimism – along with lower levels of depression and stress. Hmmm.
So, since they’re not born with it, how do you teach a child to be appreciative? The most obvious answer I can think of is to lead by example. We must live lives of gratitude, if we want our children to really learn to be grateful. That means we need to criticize less, complain less, and point out the positives, not the negative, in people and in situations – including our spouses (mine will probably hit the floor when he reads this line, in particular). I know I personally need to be more mindful of my grumbles and let my own child hear me being more overtly thankful for our many blessings. And merely telling a kid how much “more fortunate” or “more blessed” they are than some child in Ethiopia doesn’t do the trick. We need to model gratitude ourselves.
We should also reward thankfulness. At the risk of sounding cliché, thanking our kids for thanking us may go a long way toward teaching them that we appreciate them, too. If we consistently delight in their gratitude, it will reinforce this behavior and they’ll express it more often. Remember, children will, for the most part, do what their parents do. That is why gratitude has to start with parents, in the home.
I also think it’s important for our kids to give to others and make someone else happy and grateful. Help them choose and support a cause, like donating to a food pantry or blankets and jackets to a shelter. Also, tell them about the things you do to help others. Many parents give charitably but never tell their kids about it. Talk about how you give and how the small things your family does can make a big difference to someone else.
By using everyday moments to make gratitude and thankfulness a part of your family’s daily life, you’ll foster a confidence and gratefulness in your child that will lead them to become kinder and more appreciative people, in general – which leads me back to where I started this conversation. Kindness is too often in short supply.
So, it is on that note that I’d like to share with you my gratefulness for your continued support as we bring another year to a close. As readers, as advertisers and as friends, you have helped guide me both professionally and personally in ways that have changed me forever. You’ve allowed me to share my thoughts with you here month after month and you respond in ways that are so amazingly encouraging. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and look forward to many many more seasons together.
Merry Christmas to you all. Enjoy!