As we come closer to the holiday season, parents will be more focused on thinking of gifts to give to their family and friends. Sometimes, in a mad rush to buy the best present for our loved ones, it is easy to forget the true meaning of the season.
In the US, they have a wonderful tradition called Thanksgiving. This is a day when families get together to express gratitude for the family’s many blessings. It is a wonderful celebration, because more often than not, in our busy life schedules, we forget to be thankful for so many things—for all the people who made an impact in our lives, like our parents, our children and grandchildren, good friends and acquaintances; for good health; for the opportunity of education; for safety and security; for freedom of speech; for sunshine and laughter.
In fact, in a research conducted by Emmons and McCullough, they found that people who expressed gratitude for their blessings were happier and healthier as compared to people who focused on troubles and complaints.
For happy children to grow up into happy adults, we need to cultivate in them an “attitude of gratitude” starting from as young as the preschool years. Amy McCready (Positive Parenting Solutions, November 2014) gives us sound advice as to how we can cultivate a grateful heart through the years.
During the preschool years, when children are young, they are still working on the concept of giving thanks—whether a verbal thank-you or a hand-drawn picture for a grandparent who read Goodnight Moon 10,000 times in a row. Practicing good manners in instances when a “Thank you” is appropriate will nurture their budding sense of gratitude. While saying “Thank you” may be an automatic response at a young age, as they get older they will begin to attach true meaning to the words.
In the elementary years, we need to help our children reach out to others in meaningful ways. They’re old enough to make a real difference, even if it’s a small one. Not only will they feel good about what they can do, but helping others will foster a sense of appreciation for the people, experiences and things they value in their own lives.
As children enter into their early teens, it’s time to help them appreciate how good it is to have what they have. These years are also a good time to encourage generosity, and help kids learn when and how to go above and beyond being thankful for what they have, as they reach out to others. In this way, we teach our children more than just saying, “Thank You.”
When children hit the high school years, there is a growing need for independence. It is at this time that we need to teach them how to “own” their gratitude—showing appreciation and making a difference on their terms. This can be done by having them focus on helping others and practicing acts of kindness. In this way, they develop a strong feeling of gratitude and compassion for others.
One small, seemingly insignificant word: GRATITUDE. But how it can change one’s attitude!
“No one is born grateful,” says life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude (Conari, 1999). “Recognizing that someone has gone out of their way for you is not a natural behavior for children—it’s learned.”
The times we spend with our children offer us so many wonderful opportunities to encourage a grateful heart and to teach them what really matters—family, friends and a happy home.
As parenting expert and founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, Amy McCready, wrote, “Of all the gifts your kids could get their hands on this season, there’s probably only one that will ensure their happiness will outlast a pack of batteries. I’ll give you a clue: It’s nothing you can put a bow on. It’s the gift of a grateful heart.”
RA Emmons, ME McCullough, Journal of Personality and Social psychology 84 (2), 2003,
“Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life”
Mac Anderson and BJ Gallagher,Introductionfrom Learning to Dance in the Rain
Amy McCready, http://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/attitude-of-gratitude