Occasionally giving thanks helps to remind us of what is essential to our happiness in life—slowing down and recognizing that we have so very much for which to be grateful. Growing up in such a fast-paced world, with constant messages about the latest “must-have” clothes and new technology, there is more pressure on children than ever before to accumulate new things rather than to appreciate what they have.
As your child’s first and most natural teacher, it is important to model and to expect the following behaviors in your child if you hope to have a child who experiences life’ s gifts with a sense of gratitude:
Rediscover Common Courtesy
Often, in the daily rush of life, people forget to acknowledge the kindness of others. First, take a moment to thank people for even the smallest kindness they show. You may feel it’s the grocery clerk’s job to bag your groceries or think that the person ahead of you should hold the door open for you, but at the very least, a simple “thank you” is warranted. Feeling entitled to others’ acts of consideration and kindness without acknowledging them perpetuates an atmosphere of selfishness and arrogance.
Next, look for small ways to show common courtesy every day—hold a door open for an extra second or two for the next person behind you, slow down a little to allow someone to merge into your lane in traffic. Your children are watching you.
Consideration and Perspective-taking
Take time to make observations and have conversations with your children about people who are experiencing hardships or who are less fortunate in any way (example: hurricane victims, the homeless). Modeling empathy (example: “Wow, that must be so hard to lose your home and everything in it ... ”) helps children build an understanding of themselves as fortunate in ways they never would have recognized before. Think about volunteering as a family—serving others is a great way to open a child’s eyes and mind.
Children who get everything they ask for grow up with a sense of entitlement rather than an appreciation of what they have. It’s important for children to hear “no” sometimes—the practice of dealing with disappointment provides an opportunity to develop an important life skill and then, when they receive something they want, they can truly appreciate it. Children can earn or pay for things that are above and beyond what is truly necessary or what is given as gifts for special holidays.
Gratitude = Happiness
An appreciation of life and the gifts it brings is necessary for true happiness. Helping your child develop a sense of gratitude not only makes her a better person but it can also help her to develop a true sense of contentment with her life.
By Dr. Marion Swanson