An Attitude of Gratitude
In the spirit of the holiday season I’m going to derail a bit from the recent discussions about the misguided goals of behavior and talk a bit about gratitude. Bill Ayers is quoted as saying “Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.” One of the greatest challenges of parenting is finding a way to raise your children which honor your values, beliefs, morals and to allow them to grow into the people they are rather than whom we mold them to be. Frequently we parent in ways that don’t fit our child’s personality or behavior style and often we squash the talents and gifts they bring to us just out of the need to get through daily life, without even knowing that’s what we’re doing.
A child’s presence is a gift. A parent’s unconditional love, acceptance and appreciation for their gifts support their growth and development and their sense of belonging and sense of self acceptance. Our need to feel acceptance and belonging is so great that having that need met somewhere is better than no where. Our emotional state in our interactions with our family is mirrored and experienced even when we think we’re doing a good job of covering it up. If we are feeling burdened and resentful or stressed about the tasks at hand we miss the opportunities to express or experience gratitude for what we do have. Often this happens when we have adult expectations of our kids, including teens. When we have these expectations and the child is not developmentally ready to handle them their self of security and acceptance is undermined.
Here’s an example:
You’re running late to get the kiddos out the door for school and know you aren’t going to make it to an appointment on time. Your child is telling jokes and slowing down the process of getting out of the house with their need to collect all of their things. Rather than escalating to “Come ON, let’s go NOW!” and any number of things that come with that you can use gratitude as a way to calm yourself and acknowledge your child’s gift of humor and independence / responsibility. “I really want to hear those jokes and I feel like I’m not giving you my full attention since we’re a little behind schedule. How about I grab your backpack and coat and you can tell me the joke in the car?” This is really just a little flag to have us look at changing even just one interaction at a time.
As a way of seeing what your child’s gifts are you can do a fun family activity and use it as gratitude chain around your Christmas tree or a household decoration or find a way to tie it in to your seasonal celebration. Each family member takes a piece of paper and with the help of the family writes their list of gifts that they bring to the family. Once the list is complete, take colored strips of paper and write one gift on each strip. Secure them in interlocking rings for a mantel display or to go on your tree, hang over your family room door way, etc
Give your gifts freely, no strings attached without the expectation of getting anything back, including a thank you. With this others will freely give to you.