A Guide to Boosting Gratitude

It is not difficult to notice times when authentic gratitude is lacking in our homes. I have come to recognise that an indulgent life doesn’t make kids happy. The ability to connect with and appreciate the world around them does.

The ‘Give Up’ strategy is a quick gratitude booster that any family can use when gratitude is lacking. It requires us to simplify our lives and only give our children what they can appreciate and enjoy. This is a great guide to gift giving at Christmas or Birthdays. Too much can actually make it more difficult for our children to be thankful.

The core principal used in the ‘Give Up’ strategy reminds me of the way I used to rotate my children’s toys when they were little. It was especially helpful after Christmas when their toy box was so full they couldn’t find anything. I had about three groups of toys which I would swap regularly. Two would stay in the cupboard, packed away, until the novelty had worn off the ones they were currently playing with. Each time I brought a different set of toys down from the cupboard, it felt like Christmas. I always found when they had too many toys, they lost interest in all of them. We make it hard for our children to be grateful by giving them too much.

We might try and use the ‘Give Up’ strategy with our kids by saying, ‘If you don’t look after that, I am going to take it away.’ I get that. I have said it too! However, instead of using the ‘Give Up’ strategy as a form of punishment, try the approach which says, ‘I’m only going to give you things you are committed to caring for. When you don’t value something it tells me you don’t really need it.’ With every purchase comes the responsibility to take care of it well and enjoy it.

Contrast is an interesting thing. If our children were to spend a few weeks a year living with someone else, it would undoubtedly boost their appreciation for what they do have at home. There are times when I have set up a contrasting situation just to remind my children what they have, and how blessed we are as a family. Volunteering in not-for-profits or visiting people who are sick or elderly may be the best thing to boost gratitude in your home.

Familiarity blindsides many of us. Sometimes imagining something is gone is enough to make you appreciate it. I know someone who imagines every day that their loved ones die so he doesn’t take them for granted. I am not sure if I would want to visualise my husband and kids dying each day, but every now and then it pays to stop and take stock of what life would feel like if they were gone.

This is a powerful truth which will help guide your daily parenting: Our children will eventually lose what they aren’t grateful for. Let’s help them be grateful and show gratitude for what they do have.

You can find 6 gratitude boosting strategies in my journal for tweens: “Everyday Resilience Journal: A pre-teens guide to friendships, schoolwork and growing up.”

For more on this topic, check out Michelle’s book Everyday Resilience: Helping Kids Handle Friendship Drama, Academic Pressure and the Self-doubt of Growing Up”.  This book is available in all good bookstores, Big W and www.michellemitchell.org 

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