When I was a kid I saw the fancy ads for shiny, expensive toys; the play kitchens, the doll houses, the larger than life toys that all the kids wanted.
But I never got them, not one of them. In fact, I had to give my parents all the money that I had saved in my piggy bank, to get my first bike.
It’s not that they couldn’t afford it, they certainly could and more, but my father was European and it wasn’t in his lexicon to over indulge me as a child. I must admit that he spoiled me in other ways – he would do anything for me, but not in the realm of possessions.
Later as a teen, when I wanted a stereo system guess who foot the bill? You got it – me. And it was the same for every major item that I ever received.
Whether it was the right way to go or not, I can’t tell you – but I can tell you that I still remember until this day the feel of that shiny blue bike under my fingertips, a memory that I truly treasure.
And I do know that even today although I am definitely the easy spender in my family, I think very carefully before I make a large purchase and I definitely feel a sense of gratitude for the things that I have in my life.
Have you ever seen a child receive a gift and throw it down on the floor because it wasn’t what he wanted? I think (maybe as a result of my upbringing) that there is something wrong with that picture.
Parents that take the time to cultivate a sense of gratitude in their children are giving their children a gift that can be treasured for life. Isn’t It much harder for me to be grumpy when everywhere I look there is something to appreciate?
When kids learn to appreciate the little things (or actually maybe they aren’t so little) they can, come what may, always find something to appreciate.
And that is truly a gift.
That beautiful ray of sunlight that streams through the window on a breezy summer morning or the feel of a cool stone floor on a hot summer day, that marvelous feeling of snuggling up in a warm bed with a great book to read; are the true gifts in life.
We don’t want our kids to feel deprived and there is nothing wrong with having great toys and going on great trips, but the child that chases one great thrill after the next, will never be satisfied.
We want our children to be satisfied with the small things that will always be there, no matter what life may throw their way.
So how do we cultivate gratitude in our children? Take the time to share the things that you are grateful for.
A beautiful sunset…
The delicious smell of bread baking
The happy dance of a little child
The roof over our heads
It’s not so hard to find the things that we are grateful for, if we take a few minutes at the end of the day to review our day with our kids.
I know parents that have a little book by their child’s bed and they write a couple of things with their kids that they are grateful for before they go to bed.
If it’s hard for kids to come up with things you can start off by talking about the things that you are grateful for.
It also doesn’t have to be a book.
It also doesn’t have to be a certain time.
Gratitude can come at any time of the day, in any shape or form and in any venue.
Share your story
I once was driving to work on a gloomy, rainy Monday morning. It was probably the last thing I wished to be doing until I saw a woman running for the bus in the rain. My whole day changed. How grateful I was to be in a warm car, shielded from the lousy weather!
Can you share a story like this?
When your child does something that you have asked, instead of a mumbling a quick, “thank you,” look into his eyes and show him the true joy that he has brought you.
When he makes an effort to clean his room, tell him why his efforts have made you so happy.
When you begin to use the language of gratitude, you may be surprised at the way your kids start to talk to each other, and the way they start to talk to you.
I will always remember the joy with which my three year old came to me; to tell me how wonderful it was that the baby had turned over!
So many children feel a sense of entitlement. Ask yourself if this entitlement makes them happier? I don’t think so.
Because nothing is ever enough… once the excitement has faded, the search is on for the next shiny toy, and that search continues into adulthood.
But when a child learns to truly appreciate the little things, when he truly feels fortunate for the gifts that he has been given, he will never want for more.
He will have learned that happiness does not come from more and more, but the true joy of understanding the value of what he already has.