As a parent, I want to raise grateful kids (who doesn’t?) But how does one cultivate gratitude with kids if I struggle with gratitude myself? And what is gratitude really?
Gratitude: “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness” – Google Dictionary
Knowing a lot about gratitude doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Like anything, being good at something takes practice, no matter what your personality. Being thankful or appreciative about something, (a person, a word or an object) is, in reality, really subjective because it’s all about how you see something.
A person’s perception of what is valuable will ascribe a worth to something, which then translates into a stance towards something with emotions attached such as annoyance or gratitude for the “thing”. So depending on my perception, I am able to see the different complexities of a given situation. If I can “see more” of a given situation my stance may change and my appreciation may grow for things that it might not normally.
But, while I would like to “see more” of situations, it doesn’t always come naturally. And, that scares me as a parent because I want to teach my kids to be grateful but also to be truthful with what they are feeling.
Recently a colleague challenged me to take up a regular gratitude practice. She challenged me to work on cultivating gratitude by actually using daily annoyances to help me pause and notice my body, to take deep breaths and to try to see my situation with a wider lens.
As a mom I can get on autopilot and be working hard to get my “to-do’s” done. I can get so caught up in what I “need” to do that I fail to notice where I am or that my body is telling me important things. And although I try hard to be mindful of myself and others, with so much to do and so little time I can get overwhelmed with trying to be more mindful. It can become just another thing to put on my “to do” list.
But with my new practice I’ve found myself noticing so much more around me on a daily basis. I’m now grateful for the car that cuts me off in traffic because it helps me notice and be thankful that my reflexes work really well.
I’m also finding gratitude for the mom who gave me a judgemental look for bringing my coughing kid to playgroup because she helped bring me back to the present, notice my surroundings and check in with my child’s needs as well as mine.
With my colleagues nudge, I have begun to work to practice cultivating regular gratitude in myself. And what is really cool is that the more I cultivate the gratitude the more it grows. And I’ve begun to see it rub off on my kids.
And, oh is it delightful to hear my children say “thank you” at seemingly random times throughout the day! But, as I’ve worked to cultivate more gratitude through mindfulness it actually isn’t so random because my children are watching my every move.
So parents, I challenge you to start regularly practicing gratitude. Try to notice what is going on around you more by taking cues from what bothers you. Take deep breaths and try to “see” a bit more when you feel inconvenienced. Name a few of those feelings out loud even! And as you begin to widen your perspectives you’ll find yourself growing gratitude not just in your life but also in your kid’s.
Owner | Child Therapist | LCPC, RPT
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