Practicing gratitude has been a huge part of my life, so much that I’ve incorporated it into my parenting. I find that I have a hard time being grumpy, short-tempered, and reacting negatively when I take a moment to think of something I’m grateful of. When I get annoyed with the day to day, I think of what I’m grateful for about it. I’ve also started to teach my 8-year-old to practice this. When she finds herself getting upset because she didn’t get her way, annoyed with something her 1-year-old sister does, or starts to complain about something, I have her check in with herself. I ask her to take a second to think of what she’s grateful for. So while she didn’t get to skip on eating her vegetables, she’s thankful she had a warm plate of food. Even though her sister is rough and doesn’t know how to be delicate with big sister’s toys, she’s thankful she has a sibling to play with. Although she’d rather play than clean up her toys, she’s grateful to have toys to clean up.
There are a few key things to take way from this-
- they have to be old enough to understand this concept
- they have to be the one to come up with what they’re grateful for
Of course, I can’t use this method with my one-year-old (yet). I won’t put an age on this practice because no one knows if your child is ready more than you. If they can understand cause and effect, compromise and reasoning, it’s probably a good idea to start introducing gratefulness as a way to reframe situations that would otherwise lead to crying, whining, and complaining. If this is the first time you’re taking this approach, I’d recommend having an age-appropriate conversation about being thankful at a time that your child is content. Ask them what it means to be thankful for something and have them give you a list of things they’re thankful for. Have them come up with a plan for them to think about something they’re thankful for when they would normally get upset, frustrated, or disappointed.
That’s not to say they’ll never feel this way or react negatively. It does help them reframe their thoughts and focus on something positive. If this is something they can learn to master at a young age, it will help them as they get older and it’s second nature. It’s very difficult to think of something you’re grateful for and continue to be upset about something. It will take practice for your child to get better at this. You might want to ask them about something they’re thankful for if you can see where the situation is headed. Have them tell you all of the reasons why. This might be a great way of redirecting their focus and bring it to a more positive place. Always be sure to have them tell you what they’re grateful for so that it doesn’t feel like a guilt trip. You don’t want to make them feel like there’s something wrong with them for feeling disappointed they didn’t get to stay and play at the park when they “should” feel grateful they got to go at all. This is a way to put things into perspective and be thankful for what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t.
Are you raising your kids to be grateful? What ways do you put gratefulness into practice? Is this something you’ve considered? Have you incorporated gratefulness into your own parenting practice? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear what you think! If you have any suggestions for a future parenting related post, feel free to share in the comments!