They were tired.
They were hungry.
They wanted to sit down.
We had a busy day and we were just trying to get back to the car, but my two boys wanted to drag out the process and whine the whole way.
I snapped, “Look around. This zoo is beautiful. If you’re complaining, you aren’t enjoying!”
This made my oldest son cry. He isn't a big fan of me using my “angry voice”.
I let my frustration spill out. I should have handled this situation better.
I should have paused and appreciated my own situation. It would have put the focus back on my surroundings and allowed me to model gratitude to my kids.
So many parents don’t utilize this pause as often as they should. I'm guilty of this. I’ve been working on pausing to appreciate before I let my anger spill over.
Many parents are guilty of not pausing before they speak. If we can't model a better behavior as a parent, then how do we expect our kids to take a pause before they act?
The first part of this process starts with you. I suggest keeping a gratitude journal for the next 30 days. You can join the next Bring Gratitude Challenge and get some support along the way.
When you start keeping a gratitude journal, it is best to write in it at the end of every day. Keep it simple at first. Just write your what and your why.
It should look something like this:
- I’m grateful for my eggs because they filled me up this morning.
- I’m grateful for my dog because he always gets excited to see me.
- I’m grateful for my bed because it’s so soft and comfy.
This simple habit will help you to build your own gratitude practice.
After 30 days, you can start to introduce more gratitude into your interactions with your kids.
I don’t just herd my kids into the bath. I announce, “Who is ready for the best bath ever?”
When I first started doing this my oldest would ask, “How do you know if it will be the best bath ever?”
I would answer, “Because it’s the bath that we are going to enjoy right now.”
This was the start of planting the gratitude seed into my sons’ heads.
The more I did things like this the easier it got for them to appreciate the moment they were in. Like I said about myself, the same thing goes for my kids. We all have a long way to go in our gratitude journey, but we’ve made some great strides.
That’s why I’m sharing my journey with you and I want you to be able help your children bring more gratitude to every situation they are in.
Let’s look at how we can do this.
You can start by helping your child with their internal dialog. If they let their negative inner voice dictate their day then they’ll likely feel like they’re not enough and that they don’t have enough.
Next time they start complaining,
- “This is sooo boring!”
- “Why is this taking so long?”
- “I don’t want to...”
Try helping them turn their dialog on its head. Tap into their curiosity and see if you can ask questions that help them see the interesting parts of the situation. This skill of reframing is very important to helping your kids build resilient mindsets.
Young kids questions:
- "How would your favorite character handle this situation?"
- "If you were a color right now what color would you be? Why?"
- "What is one thing you could do right now to make this situation more fun?"
Older kids questions:
- “What do you notice about this situation that is interesting?”
- “What are you learning from this situation?”
- “If you were “insert their favorite musician here” what do think they would say about this situation?”
A great question will help them redirect their attention. They’ll hopefully be able to find a new perspective of the situation instead of complaining about it.
Your ability to ask great questions will be the key that unlocks your child's grateful mindset. How your frame your questions will determine your success.
The discussions you have with your kids matter. Are you complaining a lot? Are you complimenting them? Are you showing them things that you enjoy and why you enjoy them?
Every interaction matters. They see the example you set and incorporate it into their lives.
You can to start by asking your kids, “What was the best part of your day?”
Try to do this at the end of every day, because this will give your child the opportunity to reflect upon and retain the positive things that happened in their day. \
If you can help your children focus on the good things, you'll help build the gratitude habit.
Some common answers may sound like this:
- “Toys” (If they are younger)
- “Nothing (If they are teenagers or my 9 year old son)
- “I enjoyed going to the zoo.”
If they say “Nothing” then ask them if every moment of their day was terrible. If they answer “no” then ask them what was just tolerable. If they answer “yes” then see if they’d like to talk about their rough day and try to see if you can come up with ideas to make tomorrow a little better.
If they give a short answer try to dig a little deeper to help them understand why. Understanding why they appreciate certain things will help them understand more about themselves.
If this question makes their eyes roll into the back of their head then try asking them a variation of this question like:
- Who did you hang out with today?
- What made you laugh today?
- What challenge did you face today? How did you overcome it?
Every kid is different, so you will probably need to be playful with how you ask your questions. When you find the right type of question, use it until they get tired of it.
If your child is older you can suggest that they keep a gratitude journal and explain how it can help them reduce stress and build relationships. Don’t force it. Just plant the seed and maybe when they forget that you suggested it they’ll start their own gratitude journal.
As this begins to become a regular habit then you can expand on these ideas. The key part is to keep things simple at first. Make sure it's not a painful experience for your kids because if they push back against it they won't want to build the habit.
Do you appreciate every moment like it's your last? Being grateful every single day will help you live longer and build a more resilient mindset. See how grateful you are with the Gratitude Quiz.
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