Last Thursday as I’m urging my kids to eat breakfast so we can get Hannah dropped off to school early for her field trip, the complaining started. “I’m not hungry.” “I don’t like the smoothie you made me.” “How much do I have to eat?” So just as my frustration level was rising I said to my children, “Look I’m hearing a lot of complaining. Let’s show some gratitude. Tell me what you’re thankful for.” So then Hannah and Jay started saying that they are thankful for their loving family, mommy, daddy, sister and brother and baby sister on the way.” I was honestly shocked that something so simple completely turned the morning around.

I’ve often blogged about the benefits of changing your thinking both for your wallet and your well-being so I don’t know why it shocked me how easily this tactic worked for my kids, but I’ve decided to continue to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in my house for both my children and myself. Here are four things I vow to teach my kids so that they can appreciate their many blessings instead of chasing after material things.

1. Avoid Negative People – At the beginning of my pregnancy I joined to talk to other women with due dates in July like me and instead of camaraderie what I found was a forum where women could be mean and say nasty things to one another in the safety of internet anonymity. Though I didn’t exchange nasty words myself, I felt myself being drawn in by it and when I realized that negativity is contagious and I was catching it from this site I vowed to stay off of it entirely. As a result, my mood is better and I no longer feel like I’m participating in something that leads other moms to feel bad about themselves. I think the same is true for kids. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh my son or daughter fell in with the wrong crowd.” Negativity and destructive behavior catches and spreads like wildfire, especially for kids. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but that’s why I hope that by teaching my kids how to combat negativity with gratitude they’ll be better prepared to handle it throughout their lives.

2. Tell Me What Your Grateful For – I’ve often read about people keeping gratitude journals or just jotting things down that they are grateful for to improve their mood and focus on the important things in their lives. I think this is a great thing for kids to do as well. Even if you don’t write it down, just asking the question around the breakfast table or perhaps before heading out to the mall might be able to focus your children on what they already have and limit the complaining and the “I wants.”

3. Give To Others – Nothing focuses you on what you have more than giving to someone else. I want my kids to see me volunteering or helping my neighbors. I want them to see that no matter how much or how little you have, there is always something of yourself that you can give to others. By giving to others you take the emphasis off of your own wants. My family went to Long Island last year with Convoy of Hope, which primarily helps with disaster relief but does other community outreaches as well. We set up games for kids in an impoverished part of Long Island, gave away shoes and food, and in general just let them know that someone cares about them. While my kids had a great time as well, all the volunteers’ children were told to give our special guests the first turns with the games and bouncy houses. They didn’t seem to mind. I think it’s important to teach my children, that not everyone has the things that we so easily take for granted.

Convoy of Hope Photo 2
Taking a break while volunteering with Convoy of Hope
to say hi to my son Jayden.

4. Get In Touch With Nature – The other day my son said to me, “I’m thankful it’s a nice day out and we can hang the clothes outside to dry.” These moments are when you think, “YES, parenting win!” He found appreciation for what nature does for us and that to me is so beneficial. Though I admittedly have a brown thumb, my kids spent the weekend helping their Poppy weed and water his garden and picking fresh strawberries at a local farm. Not only does this give them an appreciation for nature, but it teaches them how much work really goes into growing our food and whenever we teach our children to work for what they want they truly appreciate it more. Technology is great, but it doesn’t spark their imagination like playing outside does. When I was a kid the only reason you were inside before sunset on a beautiful day was if you were on punishment. Today it saddens me that all the ways we have tried to replicate reality through technology have eroded real life experience for our kids. Not that technology doesn’t have its place, but if want our kids to truly tune in and connect with other people and the world around them we have to unplug and get them outside.

Apple Picking
Apple picking in the fall with our neighbors. I forgot
to bring my camera to our strawberry picking trip
yesterday. (L to R) My daughter Hannah, her best friend
Jordyn and my son Jayden.

How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude for your children or yourself? Share your thoughts here.