Gratitude. Thankfulness. Blah. Blah. Blah.
I know this time of year it’s become more like clichés, and we’ve began to glaze over all our friend’s daily thankful updates. Even I’m beginning to sound like a broken record around here pounding the pavement with practicing gratitude — practicing gratitude — practicing gratitude.
Except, we know too much. We understand that it’s not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy. And that’s all we really want, a happy life.
For ourselves. For our children.
We do our best to remember this season is about thankfulness, not about overeating and shopping at midnight. We know we’re supposed to be thankful for all the things we have, and we do our best not to obsess at how we’re going to afford all the Christmas gifts we feel obligated to buy. We do our best to practice gratitude.
But that’s just what we’re doing — practicing. We won’t always get this thankful heart thing down, we’ll whine and complain, we’ll forget to say ‘thanks’, but we must never give up. We must keep practicing, and as we are practicing gratitude in our own hearts, we are now met with the challenge to teach out children the importance of an open and thankful heart.
Here are five ways to practice a life of gratitude for yourself, but also teach your children it’s importance.
1. Demonstrate Gratitude.
This is a no-brainer, but I felt it couldn’t be left unsaid. We all know the importance of practicing what we preach. Our children learn most by our actions, so in practicing a thankful lifestyle, our children are naturally going to learn how to live a grateful lifestyle. So, say it out loud when your children are around, “I’m so grateful for this moment. Right now, because we are all alive and all together.” Make it an on purpose daily dialogue, long after the turkey is put away.
2. Gratitude Journal.
It’s human nature to forget. We say we won’t forget this awesome moment, but somehow it get’s filed in our cluttered memory cabinet under a thousand other awesome moments. One way to make sure good moments that we strive to be grateful can be recorded forever in a gratitude journal. This is a learned discipline, so if you’re not used to journalling, it will be impossible to teach your children to journal. This is a discipline that I have never done, so instead of telling my children to do something that I, myself, don’t practice, I’ve started my own journal, and then I let my kids look through it and read the words I’ve written. Over time, I hope to share this discipline with my kids, too.
3. No More Complaining.
Matt and I have started a ‘no complaining, no negative’ talk rule in our home. Neither he nor I allow ourselves to get caught up in the negative mindset of complaining about what isn’t right in our life. We believe ‘out of the heart the mouth speaks’, and we believe ‘like attracts like’. If we complain about all the things that aren’t right in our life and in the world, then we are speaking out of an ungrateful heart, and guess what? We’re going to get more negative in our life.
So, we live by the rules that: If you want less negative in your life, then you need to speak more positive. If you want less anxiety in your life, then you need to speak more peace. If you want less hate in your life, then you need to speak more love.
When Matt or I says something negative like, “I’m going to have such a bad day”, our response to each other is, “You sure are with that kind of attitude.”
Or to your children, you can simply ask, “Is that showing a grateful heart?”
4. Expect Good.
Part of having a grateful heart is believing goodness is coming and that I deserve goodness. We’ve retrained our thinking to firmly believe that we are all meant to live a good life, no matter what. Right where we are, right in the middle of the life we are living, so when negative things happen to us, we are quick to remind ourselves that this bad thing that has happened doesn’t define us or define our life. Expecting good allows us to take the negative in stride, because the negative isn’t a destination, but rather just a bump in our road to goodness. And while we are waiting for goodness to come, we can practice being grateful for what we have right now.
This is something our children are really good at, and I believe we need to learn this from our children. We’re the ones who squish their expectant hearts with fear and doubt. Don’t believe me? Give any four-year-old a Christmas catalogue and ask him to circle what he’d like for Christmas. He’ll circle everything in the magazine and then ask, “Where we gonna put all this stuff?”
5. Surround Yourself with Grateful People.
We have heard this a million times, but it’s still true. You become who you surround yourself with. Negative, ungrateful people will continue to feed negative and ungrateful things into our minds, making it impossible to keep our hearts open to the goodness that gratitude brings. We will miss out on a lifetime of goodness, because we continue to surround ourselves with the the fear, negative, and complaining voices. Find the voices that speak life, peace and goodness — all the time.
As you belly up to the table for a plate full of turkey goodness, remember to keep your heart grateful, open, and expecting goodness, because not only will your heart be happy, but so will your children’s hearts be happy.
Happy Thanksgiving, wounded doves!
Boys will be boys.