Teach Gratitude to your Children

Last Saturday I was talking with two friends of mine about how parents shape our behaviour, way of thinking and habits. This reminded me of an article I read, titled “How to raise grateful children”.

Take a picture of me by Damiano Tescaro on 500px.com
a random moment of gratitude that happened to me in Bern, Switzerland

Because gratitude is something that I am working a lot on these days, I found this article perfect to start the conversation. Here’s my favourite passages:

Be a Gratitude Role Model. When you spend every night writing all your blessings into a journal, you’re bound to pass along the gratitude basket to your children. Saying these blessings out loud to them only reinforces this type of modeling. “I’m so happy you are in my life.” “I’m so honoured to have good friends.” “Your Dad is the best Dad in the world.” “I am so grateful to get to spend my day with you.”

This is excruciatingly true. Think about how many times in your day you take the time to thank people for being a part of your life and recognising their importance and the happiness they bring. We usually complain when someone has done something wrong, as this is naturally perceived as “out of the ordinary” (so more likely to be “interesting”). Well, I think this is a kind of an excuse to hide the fact that we are losing the pleasure of sharing our happiness. I personally feel awkward sometimes to tell people how grateful I am, but I can easily recognise it as fear of a “not socially widespread behaviour”.

For the records, I have scientifically proven that there is no harm in doing that, at all. 😉

Simplicity matters. Keep things simple and children are bound to start noticing the little things in life. We don’t have a lot of fancy things. We only just got our first big-screen TV this year and that was a really big deal. When we bought our newish minivan, it was another really big deal. We aren’t splashy. We aren’t contrived. We just live and try to make a difference in our community every day. The rest is a bonus. We are passing this along to our children delicately while also helping them achieve their own dreams.

Simplicity is a very tricky word here: it means nor scarcity nor fancy zen style.

I like to think of simplicity as that little something that can make an helm out of a cardboard box. Simplicity to me goes with being sincere, as it takes a lot of honesty towards yourself to admit you don’t need this AND that thing. Also, forcing a child to keep a “simple life style” is not a good idea either. Simplicity is not about choking ideas, but about opening new, different possibilities. So instead of teaching not to use something, why not teaching how to use something different instead?  

Teach actions. Saying thank you is fine. It is. But in these busy, crazy times of social networking and little connection to real people, it’s important to teach children to SHOW UP and give thanks. Have them write out their thank you daily in a journal. Call instead of emailing. Give cookies to the school janitor.

The last sentence is what makes the magic happen in my opinion.

The core of gratitude is to start seeing things we used to give for granted with new eyes. To realise the value of that something that’s been done for us.

A personal anecdote: in the office where I work we have a cleaning company which starts the cleaning during the last hour of my shift. One of the women working for this company in particular thanks everyone who moves away from the desks, letting her cleaning the workstation: she thanks us for letting her doing her job! Now, even though it could be just an habit or a company direction, all I could do was thanking her back and, of course, asking her how her day was going with a big smile.