When we feel grateful we are in a state of appreciation. We feel blessed and have a level of satisfaction and contentment with our lives, the people in it and our surrounds. It is important we teach our children the attitude of gratitude. It starts by teaching our children manners. The simple act of saying please and thank you when requesting something or receiving something is a good start.
Shopping with our children often turns into a session of them wanting something and us saying, ‘No, we’re not buying toys today.’ Often tantrums result or incessant pleading. You only have to be standing at the checkout. How many items are at your children’s eye level; lollies, chocolates, soft toys? Shops are not doing parents any favours. They are wanting parents to cave in and buy what their kids want. They know kids will throw tantrums. They know that placing things down low to entice kids will end up in more sales. Marketing to children is nothing new and if anything it is only getting worse.
Society and consumerism constantly challenge us and our children to want more and while there is nothing wrong with wanting more, it seems to have become the focus for many. More! More! More! We can’t do without this product and that product and if this person has it, than it must be good. Many people even live beyond their means trying to keep up with the latest fads and trends. What is this saying to our children?
We can educate our children as best as possible about being grateful for what they have in life. Toddlers are not going to understand the concept of being grateful as they are at a stage in their lives where they are very egocentric. Toddlers learn that they don’t get everything they want when they want it through their parents remaining strong and consistent and not giving into their tantrums. Older children should however, be introduced to the concept of gratitude. Going shopping is not an invitation for them to get something new each and every time. Children who do get everything they want often lack drive, ambition and become needy adults who may think, purchasing something new is going to make them happy. It doesn’t work like that. Happiness comes from within, not from things external to us but this is something older children need to be reminded of fairly frequently.
Here are some practical ways we can help our children understand gratitude and what it means to be grateful.
It doesn’t cost anything to say please and thank you and they are simple pleasantries that are appreciated when heard.
(2) Positive language and ways of being.
The moment your children start moaning and groaning about a situation or a circumstance that doesn’t meet their approval, aim to quash their negativity. Gratitude cannot be present when there’s negative feelings or emotions. For example, they might not like the dinner you cooked. If you’re likely to react adversely to them criticising your dinner, you might be best to think before you speak and try and engage your inner child. Start probing them with questions. Is there anything positive you can say about tonight’s dinner? If they laugh and say no, keep calm and keep the questions rolling. How do you think I cooked the dinner? Do you think you could do a better job? Engage your children in a fun way and make them think at the same time.
(3) Educate your children so that they have a greater awareness of the world around them not just life in their own backyard.
Being grateful requires us to have a deeper understanding of the bigger picture. For this reason alone, it takes time, experience and an observation of gratitude in action for our children to be grateful.
You could address issues such as how children of similar ages, live in different countries? Some children don’t even have access to healthy drinking water. Could you or your children imagine bathing in the same water that you drink? Probably not, which just goes to show us, we would be wise to be grateful for the small but essential things in life, we often take for granted.
(4) Less is more.
Choose quality over quantity. Consumerism has generally seen a decline in the quality of our products and an increase in the volume of cheaper products. As a result, toys often don’t last the heavy handedness of children and end up being thrown out and replaced with another cheap version and so the cycle repeats. This in turn, increases landfill. We have become a disposable society, throwing out huge quantities with little or no regard for the environment. Take your children to a local landfill and let them see it first hand. That might encourage them to adopt a less is more, mentality. Sometimes our words are not enough. It takes seeing something for our children to gain a greater understanding.
(5) Give when you can.
There is always people less fortunate than ourselves. Get in the spirit of giving and showing generosity without wanting anything in return. We feel wonderful being able to help someone and seeing their appreciation. It is an empowering experience for our children to see us helping others. It need not be giving or donating money. We could help someone do their shopping, offer to do some voluntary work within the community, talk to a lonely person or just brighten up someone’s day.
(6) Let our children experience earning, saving and spending their own money.
Children, naturally see things they would like to have and expect their parents to buy. If we are forever buying everything for our children, we are not teaching them or empowering them. Children need to understand that it takes time and effort on our part to earn money. Most of us work long and hard to earn a decent living. Open a savings account for your children and let them see their deposits grow over time. When they want to buy something we choose not to buy them, the choice is theirs to either dip into their own savings or go without. It’s giving our children responsibility for their money and their purchasing decisions. If they make unwise purchasing decisions its an invaluable learning experience for them.
(7) Gratitude is empowering.
Being grateful for what we have in our lives, opens us up to new, more empowering experiences. I would like to end with a quote which sums up gratitude rather well.
“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
PS I hope you found this post helpful and as usual I appreciate and enjoy reading your comments.