This post is by regular contributor Catherine Oehlman aka Squigglemum.
When I started my career as a teacher a poster near my classroom read, “Let your attitude be one of gratitude.” I’m not sure whether the reminder was for the students or for the teachers! No matter what age we are, it is oh-so-easy to grumble about what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for the abundance we do have. Here are five suggestions for growing an attitude of gratitude in your family.
1. Lead by example: (You knew I was going to say that first, didn’t you?!) Our kids are looking to us all the time. They notice the things we say, and the things we neglect to say. If as parents we constantly complain, we cannot possibly expect our children to do otherwise. We are our kids’ first teachers and strongest role models. They will follow in the way we lead.
2. Teach manners: I don’t think manners are old fashioned (with a few exceptions) and they are still expected in most social settings. Please and thank you are often amongst the first words we teach our kids, for good reason. It’s important that as adults we use manners ourselves when speaking to children. The way we give instructions can determine the mood in our homes. “Please don’t leave your shoes on the floor. Put them away where they belong… Thank you for putting your shoes away. That is helpful.”
3. Create good habits: A habit is defined as an ‘acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it becomes almost involuntary’ (dictionary.com). One habit that has become almost involuntary in our home is saying thank you to whoever has cooked dinner before asking to leave the table. My kids might not always like the meal in front of them, but I still want them to be grateful for the food they have! As a Christian family, another good habit we encourage is starting our bedtime prayers with “Dear God, thank you for…”
4. Count blessings: Some of us are glass half full people, while others have to look hard to find the positives in life. Your kids may need a little help to see how rich they really are. A great activity with preschoolers is to count toys. How many dolls/trucks/books/etc do they have? (This works for mums too. Count how many shoes you have…!) Someone else will always have more iToys (or Jimmy Choos) but we still have more than we need.
5. See the big picture: I often find I struggle with the imbalance in the world. I throw out leftovers without a second thought, while other women cannot even feed their families. My kids have access to a local GP, 24hr doctor service and a hospital emergency department, while other children die from preventable diseases. At an age appropriate level, I want my kids to understand the bigger picture of the world we live in. Beyond being grateful for what they have, I want them to make a difference to those who have less. At the moment we are preparing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.
An attitude of gratitude isn’t something you can suddenly insert into your family. It takes time to grow, and requires consistent role modelling. But if it makes your home a happier place… if it makes your kids appreciate their lifestyle… if it makes even a little difference in the world… then isn’t it worth the effort?
What other suggestions do you have for growing an attitude of gratitude in your home?