Thanksgiving Vs. Giving thanks

Polite children say “thank you”. Politeness is a virtue, but it is not the same as goodness. Reciting “thank you” is a level beyond ignoring something good; however it is simply a statement, not necessarily a feeling. How can we instill the attitude of gratitude in our children? The challenge is to take the words, the habits, and politeness, and turn it into genuine goodness.

The expression of thanks is a method of genuinely expressing gratitude. In order to effectively teach this trait, it is imperative that parents must first own the attitude of, “My cup runneth over” – I am grateful for the many blessings in my life. It’s easy to get swept away in the myriad of things that keep us busy, and forget to have gratitude for what we have. Have you ever bought a piece of furniture that required assembly? Sometimes a part is missing, or the instructions were written incoherently, and the process of assembly was fraught with frustration. However, in the end, there is a beautiful new desk or armoire. Children can be likened to the raw materials in the unassembled box: they are wonderful; however the oftentimes frustrating process of ‘putting them together’ allows us to forget that they are a blessing!

In life, what we focus on expands, and what we ignore, contracts. When we focus on what we have, we bring a mentality of abundance into our life, and vice versa: a disposition of scarcity is the result when we focus on what we lack. Teenage girls have a unique vision of scarcity upon gazing at a closet filled with clothing and grumbling, “I have nothing to wear!” Teen boys do the same in front of a refrigerator filled with food by complaining, “There’s nothing to eat!” Focusing on a lack creates a real hole in life, and continued attention to that hole causes it to grow bigger- no matter how much we actually have.

A valuable exercise is to ask our children, “Do we need this? Where would we be without this?” For example, what if we would ask our child, “Do we really need electricity?” and follow up with, “If the electricity went out for a long time, what would we do?” These conversations will stimulate ideas about being resourceful. They can be a springboard to discuss the idea that billions of people still live without electricity, as did our ancestors for many years. The limited amounts of certain natural resources can bring about a family discussion on the subject of not wasting electricity- which will have a far more lasting impact than shouts of, “Turn off that light!”

If you are reading these words online, you have a technologically advantageous lifestyle that kings and queens of prior centuries could not have envisioned! Let us take the time to internalize all the good that surrounds us and share this spirit of thankfulness with our loved ones. A blessed Thanksgiving to all.

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  1. What can I say, THANK YOU for this article at this holiday time!

    Great new layout here, I love the colors!

    Happy Thanksgiving to y’all:)

    Jill, mom of 4 small souls

  2. THANK YOU, Ellen, and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family:)

  3. What a great article!!!! I actually discovered your website while doing a Google search for “ways to teach children about gratitude!” I am a mother of two and a teacher to many more, and my co-teacher and I were looking for ways to make the holiday of Thanksgiving more meaningful for the children in our class. We have talked a lot about being grateful during the last couple of weeks at school and I wanted to share a story with you… During one conversation that we were having with the children, we wanted to illustrate the concept of being grateful during times are not so obviously wonderful – being positive and seeing the good in all… So we told a couple of stories and then had the children think of things that the character could be grateful for. For example, one story was about a boy who was so excited to play outside in the park one day but when he woke up and looked outside – it was raining. The children (they are all 4 and 5) came up with ideas like, “At least the plants are getting a drink,” and, “He could be thankful that he has rain boots and a rain jacket,” and, “He could be happy because rain can be fun too.” Of course we also emphasized that this does not mean that there is no room for disappointment or sadness, but that looking for the positive is also a way to be grateful. So! A couple of days later, one of the girls was at the writing center working on a drawing and she colored too much in one area of the paper and made a hole. After her initial disappointment, she smiled and said, “I know! I can turn it into an open mouth on the face I was drawing!” How great is that! And one of the boys sitting next to her made the connection to our discussion and said, “Just like in the stories!…….” I also found a great poem in my Google search and here are a few lines that I liked… “It’s easy to be thankful for the good things… A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.” (Anonymous) A happy and meaningful Thanksgiving to all! Maya

  4. Thank you for those wonderful words and a Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!!! I teach preschool & Kindergarten yoga and each week we do a gratitude circle to express what we are grateful/thankful for that day. It is so amazing to hear the different things they come up with each week, not to mention inspiring. Gayle