What happens when we teach our children how to be grateful? Will there outlook on life change? Will their demanding holiday gift list to Santa shrink? Would they be more helpful around the house? Would they welcome challenges into their lives that get them out of their comfort zone? All of these questions are what ifs. The one thing we know for certain is that we know our children know what gratitude is. Do we automatically think our children will know how to practice gratitude?
On Friday nights I volunteer to help out with St. George’s Girl’s Youth Group. The ages range from 10 to 16. This Friday night the Pizza Making Party did not allow Sister Providentiae to do the night’s scheduled talk on the virtue of Gratitude. I mentioned to her that gratitude was the topic we discussed here last week. Why Sunday should start your week in gratitude. We all know about gratitude. We are ALL grateful about the gifts in our lives. However, many of us do not practice being grateful every day. If we were, I think earth would be a happier place to live on.
The girl’s noticed I had cut my hair recently. My response was because I was high. High? Did she just say she cut her hair because she was high? Yes. I did. I started off our talk with having them list the things that make us high. We can argue over my technique later. Drugs was the number one answer. We deduced what the actual sensation of being high was, being extremely happy. What were the natural occurrences in our lives that would give us a NATURAL high? I gave them the hint that it started with a G. A few of the girls mentioned God. This is a much better answer than drugs, yes? Oh is it Grass? I said it could be. The memory of freshly cut grass reminds me of sitting out on the lawn in front of the Fairfield University Library where I would often study while in college. It’s a happy memory. Finally we got to Gratitude. Gratitude has the power to make us feel high.
I shared with you last Sunday my technique on using gratitude throughout my day, not just first thing in the morning. I didn’t share that with them. We talked about what the things were in their lives that they were grateful for. Their lists were quite extensive. We assume that if someone understands a concept then they know how to apply it to their every day lives. This is a horrible assumption.
I did not learn this technique of practicing gratitude until I was 25. This is not to say that I was ungrateful my entire life. However, if I knew then what I know now, my life would have been very different. We spend a good chunk of our lives being grateful for the things that make us happy. What about the things that make us unhappy?
If we took the same approach of taking in each road block, critique, or unwanted outcome, as we did all the things that made us happy, would they then become positive areas in our lives?
Let’s look at a relationship in our lives for a second. We all have that one person in our lives that seems to want the opposite of what we want at times. While I can feel temporarily frustrated with a future husband who sometimes has a different idea of how something should be done, I am grateful for the following:
- I am grateful for the opportunity to learn compromise.
- I am grateful for a man who loves me.
- I am grateful for a man who is willing and does meet me half way.
- I am grateful for the opportunity to learn to do something a different way.
We do not have to like all situations. No one likes a situation that takes them out of their comfort zone but we can still be grateful for the experience none the less.
Like our hearts, we must exercise our souls. Teaching our children how to be grateful, especially in times of despair, will give them a different outlook on their lives. In our society we are shown to shun negative experiences and to avoid them. However, it is usually these experiences that help mold us into the awesome adults we grow to be. We all know, much later on in life, that it is good to be grateful for the good and the bad. What if we had known that from the jump?
What is your technique with explaining gratitude to children? Do you teach them how?
PS: Today’s readings can be found on the My Pocketful of Thoughts Facebook Page.