Teaching your children gratitude is, well to me anyway, one of the most important lessons I can share with my kids.
I don’t know about you, but all I really want for my children is that they are HAPPY. It doesn’t matter to me if they have a college degree or if they are a rubbish collector if they end up working as a doctor or a tradesman, honestly, no job is better than the other unless it provides a sense of happiness in their life.
I want my children to realize that THINGS aren’t going to make them happy, that life is so much more than constantly acquiring more stuff.
Happiness isn’t the buzz you get when you finally get that laptop you were dreaming of, happiness is a constant state of being, a contentment that you carry within you. It comes from looking at what you already have and being grateful for it.
We can all aspire to have MORE but we also
need to acknowledge what we have RIGHT NOW.
This crazy world we live in bombards our kids with wanting stuff, in being ‘cool’, in having to be someone famous to be a success in life. They have to ‘BE’ someone. Apparently, they cannot just be themselves.
I feel like they are being told the biggest lie. Look around… rates of depression and rates of suicide show us that our children are far from happy. They are losing the ability to truly connect with this world, to connect with each other. They need to realize that their place in the world does not have to be one on the TV to be important.
I look at all the celebrities and their lives seem to be a disaster most of the time, break-ups, cheating, lies, and indulgence. Why do we give so much time and importance to those that merely entertain us and not to those that are making positive changes in this world?
I have read from time to time about the happiest people on the planet. These people are not the ones you imagine. They do not have a mansion and masses of money and things. They live a simple life. They are content with what they have and they are grateful.
You cannot be truly happy without being grateful first.
Here are some ways to start teaching your children about gratitude:
1. Stop and smell the roses with your kids
Show them how to slow down in this fast-paced world. Show them the wonder that is all around them. Take them out to look at the stars at night. When it rains I like to tell the kids how grateful I am to have our little house that is keeping us dry and that our water tanks will be filling up. I explain how the plants outside will be so happy to have some water so they can grow bigger and stronger. It is all about stopping and noticing.
When you do this you are also stopping and connecting with your children. You show them to look for the positives in life, to be mindful, to be grateful.
2. When you go out, don’t always buy them things
My boys rarely get bought things when we go out. I like to talk about all the toys they have been given and ask them, ‘where are they now?‘ This leads to a conversation about how that toy was broken and is in a landfill right now. We talk about how this isn’t good for the planet. We talk about how it could be children like them, that are being forced to make these toys, just to survive.
We talk about how they quickly they lose interest in the toys they once longed for. We talk about how hard their father works to make the money, for us just to spend it on a toy that might end up in the rubbish.
I get blown away now, with my eldest who is only eight, when he will say no to buying something when the offer does come up. Teach them that things are just that … things. Things are nice from time to time, but they are not really important.
3. Let them give
Whenever we are out and about if we see a busker or someone trying to raise money for something, I search through my wallet for money which I give to my children, so they can give it. They absolutely love it. They learn that awesome feeling you get when you give.
If it is someone raising money for a charity, I will talk to the children about what the charity is trying to do and that by giving, they are helping those people achieve something special. The boys get to connect with the person they give to. They get a ‘thank you’ and we all know how that feels … it feels so good. Even my two-year-old gets a coin to drop into a buskers hat. He thinks he is so important and loves copying the older two, who help to show him what to do. It always fills my heart when I see them giving and then receiving thanks.
4. Share what you are doing
Sharing your journey with your family is a great thing to do. Show them the vision board you created and let them do their own vision boards. Setting up your children with the ideas, that they can create the life they want … what a wonderful gift to give them.
Show them the gratitude journal you use.
I have a blackboard in my kitchen that I write inspiration notes to myself but I also get them to write them from time to time too.
Share the knowledge you gain about being positive, being happy and being grateful. Share your gratitude with them. When we are in the car I will ask them what they are grateful for. I usually start with … “We are so very lucky! I am so grateful today that we have a car to drive around in. What are you grateful for Billy?” …. and it can go on and on as we drive along.
Be authentic with them and, in turn, they will be with you.
5. Get them to write it down
A daily practice of writing down what you are grateful for is an extremely important way to instil a life of gratitude in your children. I have used a gratitude journal for years and getting your children, once they are able to write, to have one of their own is not only a great habit to get into, it is also a lovely thing to look back on when they are not feeling so great.
For your younger children, simply write it down for them. What an amazing keepsake to have!
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