22 Jun Gratitude
“Love and gratitude can part seas, move mountains, and create miracles.” – Shonda Byrne
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is an “attitude of gratitude”. Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the Universe. It has the ability to transform any situation from negative to positive; to attract more things to be grateful for and ultimately allows us to live a more fulfilling and happy life. If you have not already made a conscious decision to integrate gratitude into your daily family life, now is a great time to start. Here are some reasons why gratitude is so powerful and some practices that have positively impacted my family.
Why is gratitude important?
Reminding your child to be grateful gives them perspective. Children and teenagers don’t always have the instinct to be grateful and may end up complaining about a situation or focusing on lack. For example, when my five-year-old daughter wants a new toy we first practice a quick gratitude exercise. We go through the toys she already has, and she names five toys she is grateful for and why. It is important to include the why as this involves feelings and makes the gratitude an experience instead of a purely intellectual exercise. She remembers how happy she is when she plays with these toys and without fail, she will want to start playing with them again. Instead of focusing on lack, she is reminded of how much she already has. This reinforces feelings of fulfillment and contentment.
Another benefit of gratitude is abundance. Whether or not you believe in the law of attraction, it is a great principle to introduce in your child’s life. The principle is: whatever you focus on grows, or in other words, whatever you are grateful for will increase. The more you focus on lack, the more lack you will continue to feel. The more gratitude you feel, the more things you attract that also make you feel grateful. This is something my daughter understands. It is a motivating factor in her gratitude practice. “Wow, if I say thank you for what I have I will get more? Brilliant!”
The quickest way of transforming a negative situation into a positive one is by changing your focus. If your child is complaining about something, they can get stuck in a rut. I can tell when my daughter is in a good mind frame merely from the tone of her voice, let alone her demeanor. As an outside witness we can assist our children in feeling better by shifting them to an attitude of gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for, which makes this a very easy exercise. For example, if Keira is complaining that she is bored or that something is “unfair” I engage her in a gratitude game. It’s like playing “I Spy”: you take turns naming things you are grateful for. This can be something as simple as fresh, clean water to drink or as big as your health. If I kick off the game by saying, “Ok I’ll start! I am so grateful for my amazing daughter because she brings me so much love and joy everyday” this immediately shifts her mood and transforms her into a kind and loving mind frame. She will then usually follow suit by saying how grateful she is for her family since children really do take their cues from us.
How can we introduce it into our children’s lives?
Start off the day with a gratitude practice. In our household we have a gratitude challenge whereby we say thank you first thing in the morning. When I open my eyes the first thing that I say is thank you. And then I take a few seconds to go through the things I’m grateful for: the night’s sleep, the day ahead – full of possibilities and potential, my health, my bed…By the time I am saying good morning to my children I am already so grateful that I give them a big hug and send grateful energy to them. Given that children have such strong mirror neurons they feel this energy very clearly and it sets them up for a successful day. They are happy, lighthearted and feel valued.
End the day with a gratitude practice. At the end of the day, my daughter does her “bedtime gratitude exercise”. Sometimes it’s with me and sometimes it’s with my husband. I say this because she isn’t doing “my” gratitude exercise, it’s hers. She lists three things that she is grateful for that occurred during the day and she says why. Again, specifying why will rekindle the positive emotion she felt. I bet you will be surprised what your children come up with. The things that come up most often with Keira are, playing with her little brother, our home and her family.
Lead by example. Leading by example is the best way to introduce and teach gratitude to your children. We make gratitude a part of our family culture when this is something that all members of the family practice. You can take the opportunity to show you children that there is so much to be grateful for. Some ideas you may want to mention are your health or any body part. For example, I am grateful for my feet because they allow me to run; my hands because they allow me to give you back scratches before bed. You could list any food or drink; people in your life, friends, grandparents, siblings, teachers; a warm and cozy home, soft sheets and pillows, hot water for a bath.
When you incorporate gratitude into your family’s daily life you will see how fun it becomes. It can be a go-to topic to explore, just to reset the mood or to fuel interesting conversations about what we value most. Whenever you do list something, you’re grateful for, remember to say the words “thank you, thank you, thank you” and truly relish the warm fuzzy feeling of appreciation. This alone has the power to transform your life. In the words of Meister Ekhart, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’, it will be enough”. Your gratitude practice will brighten your family’s day and it will bring exponential happiness and fulfillment to each of you as time passes.
Enjoy the journey and join us in empowering future generations!