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Instilling an Attitude of Gratitude All Year Long by April Tucker

With the anticipation of Thanksgiving around the corner, the message of gratitude, or giving thanks, dominates the month of November more than any other time of year (except perhaps Mother’s Day).  We take a moment in the presence of our family and friends to think about and acknowledge those who have had a hand in raising us, those who make us smile and feel amazing, and those in our lives both past and present who challenge and inspire us to be our best selves.  We are thankful for our pets, running water, food on our tables, and all the other everyday necessities.

However, instilling an attitude of gratitude is more than honoring one day of the year or simply minding our P’s and Q’s – it’s embracing a deeper level of endearing kindness toward ourselves and others.  Children, especially the younger ones, are innately self-centered so the concept of gratitude can be hard to grasp.  As parents, it is important to set the example and foundation for your child to understand why she is being asked to be kind, helpful, and gracious for gratitude to become second nature and come from a place of true authenticity.  When your child feels appreciated by you, it gives him the inspiration to display the same appreciation to those around him. Collectively, gratitude narrows the divide among people, bringing them closer together in community.

There are many simple ways parents can encourage children to embrace gratitude on a regular basis. Here are five ideas to get you started:

1) Write special messages to family members.  We often take our family members for granted because they are in our daily presence and we expect them to always be there.  Break the daily cycle by telling them what they mean to you and what you like that they do for you and others.  Share with them what you feel are their greatest gifts and strengths. If your child is not able to write, have them make up a story or act out a play that expresses their feelings.  The surprise will win your family members over every time!

2) Create a gratitude jar.  Works just like a swear jar, but instead of giving insults, give thanks!  Put $1 in a jar for each act of kindness you and your family members perform.  At the end of the month, season, or year, use half the funds to purchase a family game, movie tickets, or a family pass to a museum, and donate the other half to a favorite charity.  It’s important to keep in mind that gratitude isn’t all about sacrifice, so don’t feel you need to give everything away – encouraging family togetherness with a shared activity is also a form of gratitude, so enjoy reaping the rewards of your collective efforts.

3) Visit an elderly community.  With family units spread across the globe, our elders are often left behind to live alone or in retirement homes.  The elderly community is a rich and vibrant place for children to learn about history from many different perspectives.  Listen to their stories and tell them how much you appreciate their contributions to society – I guarantee it will brighten their day and leave your child beaming in shared dialogue!

4) Foster an animal. Animals teach us about unconditional love, compassion, and yes, gratitude.  Share your time and care in service of helping our furry or feathery friends through a stressful time in their lives.  They may not be able to tell you directly, but they will be thankful you showed them kindness during the transition to their forever home.  If fostering isn’t an option, ask your local animal shelter if your child can assist with any care of the animals, build a bird feeder or bat box (you’ll thank me later when summer mosquitos arrive), or design informational animal cards (notecards or virtual cards) to sell and give the proceeds to a non-profit animal rescue organization.

5) Start a kindness campaign.  Collect donations for community members in need, offer small services to pay it forward (lawncare, shoveling snow from your neighbor’s walkway, offering to do a sibling’s chore, etc.), make food for a sick or injured neighbor, share a favorite toy with another child, and most importantly, smile big and smile often. Smiles trigger positivity in yourself and others and release endorphins that make you feel happy and less stressed.

Taking small steps towards altruistic behavior can bring a lifetime of joy and happiness through a genuine display of kindness and observed awareness of the interconnected web of life that we all share.  Allow your child to lead and share her thoughts on how it feels when she gives thanks. Never force it upon a child to perform acts she is not comfortable doing – instead, model the acts so she can witness the benefits and be empowered in making choices in her own independence.

And to you, Inspired Parenting Magazine readers, THANK YOU for your patronage and being the light that you are!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

APRIL TUCKER, MA, MBA resides with her family in Southern California.  She is a finance professional, master yoga teacher, professional chef and baker, educator, and most importantly, a mom.  She has developed various youth programs for private and public schools, churches, and after-school programs based on nutrition and healthy living for over fifteen years.  April currently teaches cooking classes at the Ojai Culinary School as well as teaches and trains several disciplines of yoga to children and adults.
www.ekalayoga.com