Attitude of Gratitude: How to Cultivate One With Your Family
We talk so much about what we’re thankful for around this time of year. But I know I struggle with gratitude, and I struggle with a seven year old who struggles with gratitude, for most of the year. So I am always in search of ways to cultivate a better attitude of gratitude in myself, as well as in my children.
In my quest to find ways to work on my own heart, and ways to teach my kids to be thankful and appreciative of what they have, I’ve come across some great ideas. Here are a few that have worked well in our family to foster an attitude of gratitude.
Five Ways to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude with Your Family
1. Gratitude Alphabet. We go through the alphabet and think of something for each letter to be grateful for. For example, I might start by saying, “I am grateful for apples.” Then my son adds, “I am grateful for blocks.” The Coach adds, “I am grateful for a car that works well.” And so on through the letters of the alphabet. We have to help our preschooler out a little with finding words that start with that letter, but he gets the concept. This is a perfect activity to do while in the car, waiting in line, or other quick moments to fill.
2. Share what you are grateful for. There are many different names for this – Highs/Lows, Pow/Wow, Happy/Crappy, Rose/Thorn/Bud, etc. The idea is to share the best and the worst parts of your day. I like doing the Rose/Thorn/Bud one because you share a good thing that happened (rose), a bad thing (thorn), and then you add something you are looking forward to (bud). In our house, it helps us to stay focused on more good than bad. If we’re not careful, the bad can easily take over the discussion, so the “bud” part can help us to reel it back in. This activity is perfect to incorporate into dinner time traditions or bedtime routines.
3. The best thing about …game. This game is simple enough for even young children, and can be especially useful for getting children to see the positives of something they might have viewed as negative. The idea is simple – finish the sentence, “The best thing about _______ is…” You can fill in whatever you want in the blank. For example, recently my son kept complaining about his winter coat – it’s hard to get on, it’s too bulky, and on and on. So I used the sentence, “The best thing about coats is…” It helped him to focus on something other than his gripes and complaints, and by all sharing we got four positives about coats to counter all his complaints. This helps to look at the good attributes of something or someone, rather than focusing on the negatives.
4. Keep track of what you are grateful for. This can be done in many different forms, depending on your personality and preferences. Some people like to keep a gratitude journal, and write down a list of things they are grateful for each day. I did this for awhile after reading Ann Voskamp’s book, “One Thousand Blessings.” Other people prefer to take pictures of things they see that they are grateful for. Instagram is a great way to incorporate this practice into your life. Other ideas can include writing things you are grateful for on slips of paper and filling a jar or a special box with the slips. Another option to use with small children is to tape a large piece of paper or poster board to the wall and have everyone write or draw things they are grateful for on it. The goal is to simply be mindful of looking for things on a daily basis to be thankful for.
5. Do something for someone else. Often doing acts of service or showing appreciation for others can remind us to be more thankful and grateful for what we have. Take a little time to volunteer somewhere like a nursing home, animal shelter, or soup kitchen. Even younger kids can help make cards for people, clear dishes from a table, or play with kittens and puppies. Or consider writing thank you notes or notes of appreciation to others. Older kids can write notes, or younger ones can draw pictures and you can help to write their words for them.
How do you cultivate an attitude of gratitude with your family?