1. Seek gratitude ourselves
It was once said to me “gratitude shapes your attitude”. It is easy to dwell on our struggles, we all do it – a difficult day at work, children who have had a ratty day, job losses, relationship difficulties… and the list goes on. But ruminating on these things only drags us down. It is worth beginning the day reflecting on the things we are grateful for. If you shower in the morning, perhaps actively take a little longer in the shower and be grateful for things such as – having a job during a pandemic, hot running water, having a roof over your head, the joys and smiles your children bring, the friends that stick by you thick and thin, for grass to walk on, flowers in Spring, time for rest, if you’re spiritually inclined – for what Jesus did on the Cross… The list can be endless. In the book of Galatians the Apostle Paul refers to the “Fruit of the Spirit”, just two of them are “joy [and] peace”. I personally pray for each of them each day.
2. Actively model gratitude
Children learn much better by seeing their parents do, than from what they are told. If they see grumpy, miserable, complaining parents, what model do they have? If they see their parents grateful as they make their way through the day, peaceful in times of stress, joyful when many others would not have joy, it shapes them. Children are like sponges and soak up their parents’ behaviours. It’s worth considering actively speaking out to the kids what you are grateful for, and perhaps asking them what they are grateful for. Some occasions it may be helpful to regularly show gratitude on a daily basis are: over breakfast (to shape the day), after school or when reading to them at bedtime (to reflect on and frame the day).
Actively give thanks throughout the day – to the person who let you walk across the road in front of their car, to the person helping with the pedestrian crossing outside school, to the person at the checkout at the supermarket, to your kids for doing things (eg: unpacking their bags) without being asked. Be specific about how you feel. When our kids see us giving thanks, and notice the difference it makes in a stranger’s or family member’s day, they will model off their parent, and god-willing be more thankful and encouraging to others too.
3. Model all family members contributing to the household
Labelling things like emptying the dishwasher, hanging washing on the line, folding clothes, taking out the rubbish or packing away toys as “chores” has a negative connotation. Children, like all humans, can be intrinsically lazy. They may complain when asked to do these and other things. Model to them, daily, that the whole family contributes for the good of the whole family. When the whole family (parents and children) all contribute daily, together, there is less likely to be whinging, and perhaps they may come to respect all that their parents have been doing over the years.
4. Praise their effort
If we only praise our kids based on outcome, they may feel like they are only (or most) loved based on their achievements. This can make them insecure, and perhaps as they grow older a work-addict. Rather, if we praise our children for their effort (regardless of outcome), then it may self-motivate them more. For example, if your daughter came 2nd last in a championship 800m running race, if their praise is based on outcome, they may feel devastated. However, if you acknowledge that they may have run close to their personal best and praise all the effort and hard work they put in to get to that championship level they may be likely to recognise that it’s their persistence that got them to that stage, continue training and be more grateful for getting to championship level.
5. Through every loss there is an opportunity
Each time something doesn’t go as you desired (or your kids desired), try to look for the positive. If the movie you had been planning to watch on Netflix has been removed, there is an opportunity to play a game as a family together instead. If you were going to play with some friends, but they can’t do it anymore, then there is an opportunity to go to the playground as a family. Try to model finding the positives in every disappointment. Life is full of mountaintop and valley experiences, and it’s great to model to children to be grateful even when met with disappointment.
6. Be content with less material blessings, and bless others
We live in a world where people increasingly want their “rights”, they feel entitled to things, they are accustomed to all the first world perks. Consumerism and entitlement rarely leads to joy, rather often leads to grumpiness, bitterness or emptiness. Consider purchasing less presents for Christmas and birthdays. Consider asking your children what toys or clothes they may like to give away to people who are less fortunate. Consider as a family picking a few books and taking them (and perhaps something to eat) as a family to someone who is homeless and blessing them with something to eat and read.
Lets pursue contentment, gratitude and joy in all situations.
By stepping up in gratitude, for the sake of our children, we incidentally bless ourselves too!