Thanksgiving may be over, but we can begin the act of giving thanks every day, any time. What better day to initiate this ritual than today! The essence of this beloved holiday is gratitude: being grateful for what we have. Acknowledging it in our minds, feeling it in our hearts, and saying it out loud. Why limit living in gratitude to just one day!
Those days when we slow ourselves down and feel the miracle of parenting, aren’t they the best? We’re patient and calm and giggle along with our little laughter machines. When our kids really “get”—inside their sensitive bodies—the love that we feel so strongly, they respond. They become more cooperative and responsible. And feel proud! At the core, kids want to be all they can be.
In my book, Bring Out the Best in Your Child and Your Self, I help parents discover opportunities to recognize and express gratitude every day. Below are three “simple” tips that can make family life so much easier and more rewarding.
During the next week, observe your child and identify as many specific, positive behaviors as possible. (20 is a good number.) Every time you find one, let your child know that you appreciate that behavior. Express your feelings sincerely. For example, “I appreciate that you brushed your teeth without being told.” “I loved seeing you and your brother having so much fun together in the bathtub.”
Sounds simple—and it is. But the results are dramatic. Kids want attention. Don’t we all? When we give them attention for that which is working, it will continue. Actually, the positive behavior increases. The children will find more constructive ways to get your attention. A little secret: that ritual creates some of the magic I have in my relationship with my husband.
I mentioned this in my earlier blog post, but I think it’s worth repeating. It’s simple and makes sense: whatever we focus on grows. By noticing when our children say “thank you,” for example, and ask for what they want in an easy-to-listen-to voice, we encourage their best behavior to bloom all year round.
Once a week, ask family members to share aloud something they appreciate about each sibling and parent. In the photography book Sisters, those siblings who were close throughout their lives often gave credit to their parents for emphasizing how fortunate the sisters were to have each other. A ritual to affirm our appreciation may last for a lifetime, and may be repeated throughout the generations.
When we hold the attitude of gratitude throughout the year, we bring out the best in our children—and discover the best within ourselves.