Going Deeper With Gratitude
We all know gratitude matters. There are abundant tips online about how to increase your gratitude along with plenty of suggestions to get your kids thinking about what they are thankful for.
Deep down, gratitude is more important for the spiritual development of our souls than we can imagine. When we lack gratitude our soul’s growth is stunted. When we are ungrateful we are not able to see awesomeness. We fail to comprehend how amazing our lives truly are.
Seeing awesomeness needs to be an everyday habit. It needs to be something we do automatically in our heart. Gratitude can get us through the hard times and help us to be content in enjoying and embracing the good times.
But how do we get there? Is it as simple as writing down the things you are grateful for everyday? I think the answer is both yes, and no. Writing down a few blessings everyday is a way to start focusing on cultivating gratitude in our soul. However, we need to go beyond the list.
We need to pull gratitude out every time negativity starts shoving its way into our brains. We need to remember all the good things. We can’t do this when we are focusing on the bad things. I am not saying we have to ignore the bad stuff. We can acknowledge it, give it the attention it needs, and then move on. Moving on means that once we are done embracing the negative we go to the positive.
To get to the positive we only need to think about some of the things we are grateful for.
Mom’s often complain about the lack of gratitude their children show in various areas of their life. I think it is helpful to remember that children do not know what to be thankful for unless we teach them. There are a few different ways to accomplish this. One way is to help them develop a habit of verbalizing, or writing, anything they are glad about. Another is to provide experiences which will help them grasp what it means to ‘not have’ the blessings they take for granted.
Here is an example of what I mean by an experience. Let’s say your child is ungrateful for their clothing.
You can tell a child they ‘should’ be thankful for clean clothes to wear every day. But you cannot force them to feel this gratitude.
However, you can teach them how to do their own laundry. This means they understand that clean clothes are not magic, they require work, effort, and care, one of the best ways to cultivate gratefulness is to get busy working.
You can also take clothes away. I know, it sounds really mean. But honestly, how many clothes does a person really need? Being grateful for the simple abundance of clothing in our culture can only happen when a child can experience how it feels to have less.
Perhaps you present it as an experiment, for everyone to have only two outfits for a week or two, so you can see what it is like for those who only have those two outfits. How much does their life have to revolve around keeping those few clothes clean?
Or, you can use it as a natural consequence for kids neglecting their clothes. “Oh, you decided to throw all your clean clothes out of your dresser and leave them all over the floor. That’s ok, I’ll take them.” You calmly put them in a trash bag and place the bag in your room. You tell your child that if they decide they need any back they can pay you for them. You can charge a low fee, such as .25 per item. You can assure them there is extra detail cleaning they can do to earn their quarters if they have no money. If they go a few weeks and really don’t need or want any of those clothes back, you can assure them you will donate them to a local charity who can give them to a kid that really does need them.
Whether you approach it proactively or reactively, the important thing is to provide your child with an experience. It is experience that cultivates a deep gratefulness in our hearts. When we have gone without something, we are suddenly and deeply grateful when we get that thing back.
We can’t do this by only listing things, we have to do the hard work of being in need of something. Sometimes what our kids need to develop grateful hearts, is to be in need of something.
Marla Szwast lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and six children. She has written articles for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. She is the author of Stepping Through History: Starting With You!, and a semester long fifth grade science course. Both courses are published online at Schoolhouse Teachers membership website. She writes about home schooling, child development, neuroscience, and the history of education on her blog at: www.jumpintogenius.com, you can also follow her on Facebook @jumpintogenius, or Twitter @MarlaSzwast, or Medium.