With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. Specifically, how to instill a deeply-rooted sense of gratitude in my children. The greatest conclusion that I’ve drawn is that it starts with me, so if I want to see them grow up practicing thankfulness everywhere they go, it’s time for me to get intentional about doing it in my own life!
This all got me thinking about how neat it would be to actually set out on a mission with my hubby and kiddos to cultivate more gratitude in our family as a whole. But what would it look like? My kids are pretty young, so what kinds of things could we do to get more grateful?
Let’s get basic. What is gratitude?
For starters, let’s first talk about what gratitude and thankfulness even are. Starting out by defining things always helps me get clear and focused. Mirriam Webster defines gratitude as, “a feeling of appreciation or thanks” and thankfulness as “being glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists, etc. Of, or relating to the expression of thanks.”
What I find to be fascinating about these two definitions is that they are basically two sides of the same coin. The first, gratitude, is an internal feeling and acknowledgement of something. The second, thankfulness, is an action – it’s what we do with the gratitude that we experience.
What I want to do is figure out some practical ways to create more of both, individually and within our families as a whole, because I wholeheartedly agree with these poignant words from Melody Beattie on gratitude:
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow.”
Yes please, I’ll take more of that, thank you!
So. Why are gratitude and thankfulness important?
Cultivating a practice and lifestyle of gratitude and thanksgiving, as both an individual and as a family, is so important because I’m convinced that gratitude is the cornerstone of peace, joy and lovingkindness.
As Melody said, it’s the means through which we are able to experience the fullness of life…and as wives and moms we have an amazing opportunity to not just develop our own gratitude skills, but to help our families do the same! Think of it as cultivating a legacy of gratitude in your family and kids.
Like I mentioned before, thankfulness often starts in our kids when they first see it expressed by us. Teaching our kids how to develop grateful hearts and what to actively do with that gratitude is one of the most beautiful gifts we can give, because it will keep on giving for the rest of their lives, and it will impact so many more beyond just them.
It comes at a cost though.
This part isn’t always so popular, but it’s the truth. True gratitude is something often born in sacrifice. It requires humbling yourself in compassion, to see others’ needs as greater than our own, which requires us to adjust the frame of our perspective.
A grateful heart isn’t fussy, complaining or argumentative. Gratitude is something we can choose despite what we might naturally feel. And honestly, I don’t think gratitude is something that comes naturally. If anything, I think we are wired to constantly want more, often getting distracted by everything we haven’t done or haven’t become or haven’t gotten.
That is why it’s so important to be intentional about practicing being aware of and grateful for everything we might otherwise take for granted – like waking up and breathing each day, or having a roof over our head, clothes on our back and food on our table. The more we practice, the more second nature seeing things through the lens of gratitude will become, and the more our children will see and learn from our example – from our practice.
Gratitude will fill you to overflowing with joy and peace, and lead you to want to express your thankfulness by giving it away feely, simply to bless others as you’ve been blessed. It’s a journey, a practice, a lifestyle even….and it’s one that we should be walking through hand in hand with the people we love most.
So, what does it actually look like?
Here’s the real question: what does gratitude actually look like, lived out on a daily basis? What kinds of things can we do to be regularly cultivating hearts of gratitude as a family and expressing thankfulness for all our blessings?
Well, let’s dive in and take a look, because we need to be able to show our kids what it all looks like. We need to invite them to join us on our journey and give them guided opportunities to express their own gratitude. To do this, we have to first know what it looks like ourselves.
So, here are a few practical ways to practice gratitude every day, on your own an as a family.