A healthy dose of gratitude comes back in the form of happiness.
I once wrote a newsletter about happiness, and in my research about what creates true happiness, I found that the secret is gratitude. A healthy dose of gratitude comes back in the form of happiness. Seems pretty easy… too bad it doesn’t work that way, especially when you’re a toddler.
Why is it that my 2 (almost 3) year old can’t express gratitude for anything? Well, that’s not fair… he says thank you pretty often. But it’s in the robotic way that we’ve trained him to do. An automatic, not something he feels.
I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but my days can get pretty long. My son (you know, the ungrateful one I’ve already mentioned?) and my daughter, who is 10-months old and DELIGHTFUL compared to the sassy toddler, are spending their every waking moment with me. I am also working remotely as a college professor. It’s great to be able to work full-time with such flexibility, but man, the days can get long sometimes.
Most of the time, it’s really good. But some days, I get into a funk. That’s the best way I can describe it… a funk. I can tell when I’m in one, and my husband can certainly tell, too. I’m hoping the kids can’t tell.
Recently, I was in one of those funks, and I was explaining to my husband (or maybe I was complaining) about the rough day we had; how our son was disagreeable about pretty much everything. I explained that I had been thinking about how to teach our kids gratitude; they certainly aren’t born with the ability.
I do lovely things for my son on a daily basis, only to be shouted at that he didn’t WANT it done that way, or he didn’t WANT that meal I just made, or he didn’t WANT those shoes on his feet, etc. And I just want to scream at him that he is incredibly lucky to have all those things! He has food to eat, clothes to wear, warm water for his bath every night, clean water to drink, a warm bed to sleep in, and parents who love him. Plus a whole lot of other things that he doesn’t appreciate.
Teaching him gratitude could open up a lifetime of happiness for him.
And then I remember that he’s two. His brain isn’t wired for gratitude yet. Everything else he’s learning is through watching, which means for him to learn to be grateful, we need to be outwardly grateful in front of him. I had this moment of truth when I was making him a grilled cheese sandwich that he had already told me he didn’t want. (It was delicious, by the way.) In that moment, I realized that this one thing was a big one – teaching him gratitude could open up a lifetime of happiness for him.
Expressing gratitude should be something we do all the time, right? But when I really think about it, I wonder if my kids see that. Do I actually, out loud, state things that I’m grateful for? I can tell you that when I’m in those funks, I definitely don’t. But I also wonder, would expressing a little gratitude help me to overcome the funk? I’ll keep you posted. And by the way, my son is a great kid. One of the sweetest, most kind-hearted little boys I’ve ever known. Someday he’ll be grateful, too.
I read some examples of how to teach gratitude here, but I wonder, in what ways are you teaching your children to be grateful?