With Christmas in the next few days and New Year’s just around the corner, many of us think of this as a wonderful time to reflect on loved ones, family, friends and the year’s events. With that reflection often comes a great sense of peace, appreciation, a grateful heart and the opportunity to see my world through the lens of Gratitude.
I have a favorite quote by Melody Beattie that describes how I feel about and the power of Gratitude:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
I feel so fortunate to get to do the work I do and am so grateful for the opportunity to associate and be of service to you. You have inspired me, motivated me, encouraged me and laughed with me. I hope you feel that I have offered you the same.
Gratitude and Service are two values I was taught and was modeled for me throughout my life; the first one leads to the action of the other. Together, these action values have brought peace, collaboration and connection into my family’s lives and the lives of many families who have, in turn, incorporated them as part of their family values – as part of their journey to becoming a successful family.
I am often asked, especially during this time of year…
How I can I help teach my children about gratitude?
Gratitude is mostly learned through example and modeled by parents from the time that children are little. We teach it and then set an expectation for it from kids when they are very young. We model it for them by saying “please” and “thank you” and ask them “what do you say?” when they want something. These small, consistent and important steps reinforce the modeling we give on a daily basis as well as teaches them the beginnings of gratitude and manners. I cannot overstate the importance of parents’ modeling. If we fail to set the model, they will fail to internalize it.
True gratitude, then, naturally comes when a service or unexpected kindness is rendered. As we teach children to be self-reliant (To do as much for themselves as they can, so they feel a sense of value and worth from the effort expended and results accomplished by themselves.) and then offer those kindnesses and services when it is most unexpected or truly needed in an emergent way and when they can and regularly do for themselves – it develops gratitude within them. You are modeling service and developing gratitude.
Also, another good way to teach them gratitude is to help them provide community service. When children are young, parents can require it, but make it as fun as possible and age appropriate. Working together as a family gives them an opportunity to see and feel how gratitude is developed through serving others.
Which then poses the following question?
How do I help my kids see the benefit of serving AND not complain about it?
The optimal time is to start when they are young, get them involved in their own neighborhood community and/or family community. Little ones want to be big so they will follow the model parents set, whether it’s picking up garbage in the neighborhood park or shared community space or making and taking cookies to take to their friends or neighbors. With older kids start with something that they are familiar with and move on to more challenging and creative ideas by asking your children what they want to do. (City websites are a great resource for service projects.) The more you invite them to participate in the decision making process the more they will be willing to participate in the action taking process.
At Christmas time it may be to talk about children their own age who are in shelters and may not be receiving any gifts and how to reach out to them.
Throughout the year, to educate them on the needs of their community, regularly take them on short, brief trips with a specific purpose in mind and then have your children collaborate with you and any community individuals about what they believe might be beneficial to that area of the community. This way they are vested in the outcome. The more time and energy an individual puts into a project, especially when they believe their ideas and opinions are valued, the more likely they are to execute it AND NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT IT! Listening is more important for parents than talking during this collaborative process. Give them leadership responsibilities to carry out and a time frame to complete the tasks. That way everyone will have an opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment.
These are some of the ways in which I, and now, many of my families, have found to be helpful in teaching Gratitude and Service. I hope this offers you some ideas or suggestions as you navigate the journey of parenting – especially teaching and passing on values to your children…remember It’s never too late to start!
Might I suggest you take advantage of this time of year to begin or further along the traditions of Gratitude and Service that might carry your family throughout the year.
Thank you, again, for allowing me the opportunity to be part of your lives.