This Thanksgiving we started a Advent Gratitude Turkey. Every night after dinner we each take a paper feather and draw or write something we are grateful for. The kids enjoy looking at the pictures and talking about what they mean.
I heard someone say once that we need to fill our homes with happy and uplifting memories. So when the time comes that they are faced with a difficult choice they will think of home and the love that is felt there. I think the first place to start is gratitude. Learning to appreciate lifeâ€™s gifts, big and small is a crucial lesson I strive to teach my children on a daily basis.
Be an example: Children learn by watching our actions. When we say please and thank you or are affectionate and loving in our words and actions we are teaching our children to become sensitive to the feelings of others and develop empathy. Showing disregard towards others and rules, complaining and negativity teaches our children life is unpleasant.
Set Limits: When Mason was a toddler we got into a horrible habit of buying him something every time we went to the store. After the birth of our second child I realized what a disservice Stephen, I and the relatives were being by allowing him to have so many toys. Far too often the toys our kids scream over end up abandoned or broken. Ultimately children develop a sense of entitlement that can lead to a lifetime of disappointment. Many touching life experiences are a result of a lesson learned in “less is more”.
Express Gratitude: I always try to express my gratitude to my children if they help me with a chore, when they treat each other nicely, or give me a hug. When Stephen goes to work I thank him and tell him know how proud I am that he works so hard for us. At the end of the day we gather as a family and share what we are most grateful for.
Say Thank You: Writing thank-you notes is a habit that never goes out of style but is slowly becoming a lost art. After a birthday or holiday I try to make myself stop, sit down with my children and teach them the art of expressing gratitude. I usually give them stamps and let them stamp away. Sometimes they will draw a picture or our four year old will dictate while I write.
Service: When we are serving others we tend to forget our own troubles and often feel more gratitude for what we have.
When I think of gratitude naturally Thanksgiving traditions come to mind. Every Thanksgiving I am reminded of two outstanding individuals, Ingrid and Dave Frey. When I was living in Texas far from family they welcomed me into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. Before we filled our plates, we passed a bowl filled with candy corn around the table. I am not a candy corn fan but I took a couple to be polite. Once everyone had their candy Ingrid asked us to count how many pieces of candy corn we had and name that many things we are thankful for.