This week my son came home from school and was excited to tell me about their exercise on being thankful in class. He said, “Mom the teacher asked us in class today what we were thankful for.” With the sweetest grin on his face, my first thought was to prepare myself for a special mother and son bonding moment. I asked him what his reply was and he simply said “My best friend, Reid.” With a slight twinge of disappointment that the answer wasn’t his amazing mother, I was also very grateful that he has developed a friendship bond that is important to him.
This entire conversation made me aware of how easy it is to let our selfish nature take over in our thoughts and actions. It became an earnest sincerity to remember the importance of teaching our children gratitude. While this may not come as a surprise, one study linked gratitude to greater social support, stress and depression prevention, and a more optimistic outlook throughout life. The lack of teaching our children gratitude can often lead to an attitude of self-entitlement.
My experience this week also created a sense of self-awareness in my actions. Am I showing positivity and being thankful for my day-to-day interactions? Children learn from watching how we react to certain situations and makes this one of the most important steps in teaching gratitude. Are you remembering to say thank you to your children for doing their chores and having the patience to teach them? Are you thankful to the people around you for their efforts and hard work? Are you grateful for even the small things like the colors of fall, a family meal together, anything that makes us happy? A small token of thanks can give a child confidence to try harder and do more for others.
Real life exposures, at age-appropriate times, can often give children an opportunity for a bigger visual. We often try to shelter our children from difficult circumstances to protect them. Any child can put a toy in a box for donations, but are they grasping the full scope of their actions? One of my favorite projects I have organized while working for a former employer was assisting Must Ministries in their Santa Shop. We took children to stock and shop at a store that was created to help underprivileged families in providing for Christmas for their families. Many of the children were able to hear personal stories of sadness and abandonment of children with no parents, families of chronically ill children who were in bankruptcy from medical expenses, and many stories that were heartfelt and difficult. The overwhelming change of attitude in many of these children in how they appreciated their lives and each other was one of the most rewarding experiences.
I want to challenge each of you to continue to teach gratefulness at home, by taking the Brenwood Academy Grateful Challenge. With many difficult stories, news, and struggles that surround us daily, I want to encourage each of you to look at the enclosed list and choose a few of each of these items. Share your experiences with me through e-mail or by tagging Brenwood Academy on Instagram or Facebook with #Brenwoodgratefulnesschallenge. Please allow us to share these through social media and throughout our school. In a school of early childhood development, a heart of Gratitude is one of the greatest lessons we can hope to teach your children.