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November seems to be the perfect month to talk gratitude. Last year I talked about teaching gratitude (https://www.babywisemom.com/2010/11/teaching-gratitude.html). I focused a lot on being a good example of gratitude to teach gratitude. I stand by that today.
Gratitude is such a powerful thing. I think it is a great stepping stone to many great virtues. If you are grateful for what you have, you seem to be more willing to share it with others. Gratitude leads to service. Gratitude also leads to happiness. When you are grateful for what you have, you are happy. Being happy leads to being kind. If you are happy, you aren’t going to be bitter or mean-spirited toward people.
Our children really reflect who we are. I thought I would issue a little challenge for us all for the next few weeks. I challenge us (including myself) to keep a gratitude journal each day.
When I was in college, I was challenged to do this. I was given a little notebook (sorry, I won’t be providing notebooks). Each night, I would write down 3-5 things I was thankful for. The first few nights are easy. Family. Friends. Warm home. Food. Church. Gospel. But once you run out of those standard answers, you start to think a little harder about it, and start to see all of the small and simple things you have to be grateful for in your life.
Doing this daily really changes your perspective to focus on the many blessings you have been given. It does lead to a more content, happy, serviceable person. That, in turn, will lead to a better you and more content, happy, and serviceable children. What a great way to start off the holiday season! Rather than focusing on what we want, focus on what we have.
My idea is to all share some of our blessings around Thanksgiving.
I have to also share an idea we have done for the last few years. It is called the Thankful Basket. Follow that link for info on it. It involves the entire family and is fun to do throughout the month, also.
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Since today is Thanksgiving in the United States and I live in the United States, I thought it would be a good day to mention gratitude. I have a quote that says, “Gratitude is the best attitude.” So true.
We start to teach our children about gratitude at a young age. When they first start to say “Thank you,” they most likely don’t know what it really means. Lack of understanding doesn’t mean you can’t teach them correct behavior. Understanding of behavior usually follows learning the actions of it for children.
If you have a young baby, my advice to you is to tell your child “Thank You” every chance you get. Modeling behavior is a great way to teach it. I discovered that I say thank you a lot. One of Brayden’s first words was “Thank you.” He used it correctly and has been good at it ever since. I since noticed that I thank for everything. Kaitlyn has turned out the same. She thanks, and thanks even more efficiently. Since she talks in complete sentences, she says, “Thank you for my milk, Mama.” How sweet!
One thing I realized I wasn’t good at was saying “please.” When I asked for things, my tone and choice of phrasing implied ‘please,’ but I wasn’t good at saying it. I have had to train Brayden to say please, and it is something I frequently remind him of to this day (not necessarily unreasonably, but more than I would if I had modeled it for him).
I vowed to do better, and I did. It took and takes effort on my part to add please when I ask for something, but I am doing it! Kaitlyn is just as good at ‘please’ as she is ‘thank you.’ This has shown me how strong of an impact modeling during the first year is on your child. And remember, you can also sign all along so they can sign if they aren’t verbal early on (see Sign Language : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/sign-language.html).
We have had several lessons this month on gratitude with our children. After one lesson, we got out a huge piece of paper. The family gathered around and drew pictures of things we were thankful for. It started off slowly, but Brayden quickly caught on and started drawing item after item without pausing to think. This is how gratitude works. When we think with a grateful heart, it is easy for us to recognize the many things we have to be thankful for. We focus on the good rather than the bad. Teaching your child to be grateful is teaching your child one secret to being happy.