How to Give Our Kids a Dose of Gratitude

It’s the halfway point of our summer. Most days my kids are rolling out of bed past 9am, living in pajamas or swimsuits and putting the L in lazy. It’s been a fun summer so far and everyone is fairly happy until momma asks them to do something. So, you know, normal.

I’ve talked about the challenge of raising grateful kids in an entitled world. I’ve learned that thanksgiving is a journey, not a destination and that the old saying “Gratitude is the shortest lived emotion” is absolutely true.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Because most days I’m thankful and then about 45 seconds later, I’m not. If I feel down or grumpy, if I’m complaining or wishing for something I don’t have, 99.9% of the time it’s because I’m not being thankful and when I take the time to count the gifts in my life, it changes the way I feel about the situation.

gratitude

Here’s why: a change of perspective changes us.

The best way to give our kids a needed dose of gratitude is by altering the way they see their life.

My 11 and 13 year olds spent 20 hours serving last week.

And we all got way more than expected.

Way back in April, the smart momma in me coerced them into applying to be Junior Volunteers at the popular Science Camp their little sister was attending at a local church, I was thinking it would give them something to do in the middle of the summer.

I was also thinking about 20 hours in which all three of my kids would be occupied at the same time. Some might call that a miracle in July. I spent every glorious hour working on finishing my book (50,000 words. Yo.)

Every night my kids would share funny stories and their adventures. I heard about the highs and lows of playing with preschoolers, assisting teachers, wiping tables, holding sticky hands, answering 186 questions. But instead of complaining or dreading it, they were enjoying every minute of it.

It felt good to serve. It was fun to be needed. It made them appreciate those who served them. It showed them how hard some kids have it in life. It completely changed their perspective and reminded them of all they had. Serving altered their view and seeing the world a little differently made them thankful.

Amazing, huh?

Give your kids (and maybe yourself) a change of perspective.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been reading Running for My Life by Lopez Lomong after dinner. It’s the story of an Olympic runner who was a Lost Boy of Sudan. My kids are mesmerized and beg for my husband to continue at the end of every chapter. It’s a painful story to hear–so much suffering, but it’s also miraculous and amazing.  We are only half way thru and the book has done something crucial in our home: it has changed our perspective.

It’s hard to complain about dinner or cleaning up dishes when you’ve just read about a 6 year old boy who digs sand out of his handful of grain he gets every other day, as he’s being forced to be a child soldier.

4 Ways to Change Your Child’s Perspective and Spontaneously Create Gratitude:

  1. Exposure: let your kids see those with less–take them on a missions trip, even if it’s to the nearest nursing home or homeless spot under the bridge. Take blankets and food and share them. Sometimes we are reminded how much we have, by simply seeing how little others have. It’s powerful. 
  2. Service: There’s just something extraordinary that happens when we serve others.  Not only can everyone serve, everyone needs to. It’s the key to unlocking fullness in life. Check out this list of 100 Ways to Make a Difference with Your Family.
  3. Work: Complaining is the opposite of thanking. When my kids are griping about things in their life, it’s often best to combat it by turning the tables and letting them try a hand at hard work (laundry, making dinner, cleaning, etc). It immediately changes their perspective because it’s often not as easy as it looks!
  4. Introduction: Read books to your kids about different cultures. It easy to live in a safe, abundant bubble. Step out of it through reading and stir up gratitude. Books that will do just that: Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemptionand The Hiding Place.

Gratitude is a way of life. Thankfulness is stopping long enough to say it or show it and making sure we pause in our busy day to receive it. In our abundance, being thankful is an act of beauty and acknowledging and appreciating the gifts in our lives makes us want to give them away.