Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude Part 1

“Gratitude helps you to grow and expand; gratitude brings joy and laughter into your life and into the lives of all those around you.” – Eileen Caddy

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this time of year reminds us of the importance of cultivating a thankful spirit. Often we want our children to experience the same depth of gratitude that we do. Here are some simple ways to foster an attitude of gratitude with your children. Even very young children can be encouraged to participate.

Create a Daily Thankful Ritual – Take time everyday to express one or two things you are thankful for. Create a ritual around it so it easily becomes embedded into your daily routine. For example, in my family we say what we are thankful about every night at bedtime. After reading books and before the lights go out, we each take a turn sharing two things we were thankful about that day. My middle son often repeats what others have said, but that’s okay. He is listening, participating, and benefiting from the conversation; and he will eventually contribute his own unique ideas. I like doing this at bedtime because it’s a positive way to reflect on the day’s events, it brings closure to the day as we prepare our minds/bodies for sleep, and since going to bed happens 100% of the time, it’s rarely missed. 🙂

J playing with his blue kite

Start a Wishlist – Now initially reading this you might think creating a list of desired items is in direct opposition with fostering an attitude of gratitude, but bear with me here as I explain. Most kids frequently ask their parents for materials things. They will see something advertised, see something at a store or play with something at a friend’s house and exclaim that they want it. Rather than granting them a yes or no response, what about encouraging them to put that item on a wishlist? A young child could draw a picture of the item and an older child could write the word. You can keep the wishlist in a visible location such as on the refrigerator. The thought here is that when desire for something grows over time, the appreciation of recieving that item grows correspondingly. A story is born, a memory is made, and a heart is filled with gratitude when gifted something you have yearned for. For example, one day while taking a walk my son saw some children flying a kite. He was really mesmerized by the kite and asked if he could have one. I suggested we add it to his wishlist. When we got home I talked with him about what kind of kite he would like, size, shape, colors, etc. He decided he wanted a blue kite and he drew a picture of one. The picture of the blue kite was on up on our refrigerator for months. My son would reference it often and was really hopeful that one day he would have a blue kite. Well one day my husband surprised all of us and came home from work with a blue kite. I will always remember the joy and excitement my son expressed. He was truly grateful for his new kite and I believe his deep gratitude was related to the fact that a genuine desire was honored, as well as cultivated over time.

Model Gratitude –Modeling a thankful heart is relatively easy to do however too often we forget to do this consciously. We get caught up talking with our spouse and friends about all the things we want from a new phone to a new house. We sometimes forget that little ears are listening to us and learning from us. By shifting our focus on wanting what we have (versus having what we want) we can instill in our children a sense of appreciation for the many blessings present in our lives. Be the example you want your children to become.

What are you thankful for today? I would love to hear from readers!

Come back tomorrow for three more ideas on Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude.

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