On Thursdays, I post from the vault. This is from November 2013

Keeping a perspective of gratitude is a hard lesson in life – one
that many adults have not even mastered. But instilling the practice of
being thankful in our children is a habit that will benefit them
throughout their life: people
who hold a worldview of being thankful tend to report more contentment
and also tend to cope better with life’s challenges.

There
are several tips for teaching your children the art of being grateful,
but the most influential (and perhaps most challenging) method for
developing this habit in your children is by example. Cliché as it may
sound, children are keen observers of their parents’ attitude and
outlook. If they hear more grumbling and complaining than appreciation,
they are likely to develop this pattern themselves.

THP-HF-0185

Thanksgiving
is a great time to introduce traditions around being thankful, but I
would encourage you to look at this season as a jumping-off point. Think
about incorporating some of these ideas into the rest of the year. A
child will not learn about being thankful by a couple rituals that they
take part in once a year. It will need to become a part of their daily
practice in order to really take root in their way of thinking.

1. Serve others
– try to find ways that your children can take part in helping others.
Volunteering at a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless, or sponsoring a
foster child for Christmas are all great ways to teach your child about
perspective.
2. Affirm each other – Children (and adults)
have a hard time being thankful when they are running on empty
emotionally. Make sure that you are building them up each day so that a
lack of self-esteem does not hinder their ability to be thankful.
Consider doing a short round of affirmations for your children at every
meal.
3. Take a perspective-building service trip. It can
be easy for kids to lose perspective living in Orange County. We live in
the land of privilege, and even those of us battered by the recent
financial storm are still some of the wealthiest people on earth. Just
several hours from our country’s borders, people are living in abject
poverty. When your kids are old enough, take them on a house-building
trip, or get involved in a service project in a place beyond the “orange
curtain”.
4. Make your children earn things. Children who
are given everything they want will have a harder time being thankful
for what they have. Use age-appropriate techniques to allow kids to work
for the things they want, whether it be a week of chores for a new
game, or a part-time job to help pay for their car. Help your kids see
the value in the things they have.
5. Regularly keep a list of things you are thankful for.
A daily gratitude journal is a great habit, and something that your
family could institute at the end of each day. Stopping to reflect on
life’s blessings will help keep you and your children more positive and content.
6. Model saying thank you for the little things.
Show your children that you don’t take the small stuff for granted.
Thank your spouse for what they do each day. Thank the service people
around you. Thank your child’s teacher. Give your child the example of a
life that is led by appreciating others.

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.

– Melody Beattie


Tell me: Do you have any special traditions for highlighting an
attitude of thankfulness at Thanksgiving?  How do you maintain this
value throughout the year?