A positive attitude is one of the most valuable gifts we can hope to give our children. We all want our kids to be happy and grow up to be happy individuals. But happiness isn’t something we can buy for them or teach them. It comes from how they see the world and what they focus on. Do they focus on all the bad in their lives or on all the good? Is the glass half empty or half full? By teaching a child to be grateful, we can help them to view the glass as half full. It might be one of the best things we can do for them.
This week in the Mindful Minis classes, I introduced the concept of gratitude to the children. We discussed what gratitude means, what sorts of things we can be grateful for (e.g. people, places, things, food) and why it’s important to be grateful (for others and for us).
Daily gratitude habits can have massive benefits for children – for the rest of their lives. But be careful of mindlessly insisting that your child says ‘thank you’ all the time. This type of forced appreciation is something ‘required by society’, rather than being an offering from the heart. Gratitude should never feel like a chore.
In the classes, we played the Gratitude Game. With the younger children, I asked them to pick a pom pom out of my special rainbow bag. They were then given the opportunity to express gratitude for something depending on the colour of the pom pom e.g. red=person, green=food, orange=place, yellow=thing and purple=anything! With the older children, it was the same concept but we played a game of pick-up-sticks instead of using pom poms. So, depending on the colour of the stick they picked up, they could express gratitude for the corresponding object if they wanted to. It was lovely to hear the things they felt thankful for. There were the usual ‘sweets’, ‘lego’, ‘movies’ but there were also some really deep, heartfelt thanks. One little girl gave thanks for life. And then the little boy next to her commented that that was the best one he had heard. It was a very special moment!
I also did a ‘glass half full’ / ‘glass half empty’ exercise with them. I poured some coloured water into a glass. I then asked them if they felt happy looking at the glass because it was half full with the beautiful coloured liquid or did they feel sad because it wasn’t full to the top. There were a variety of responses. It is interesting to note here that children often mimic the adults around them. This is how they learn. So, if the parent or primary caretaker is mostly in a place where they are able to acknowledge and be thankful for the blessings in their life, then that’s what the child will pick up. It’s amazing how well children read the unconscious signals given out by adults about what they feel about life. So, if you’re finding it hard to see the glass as half full, chances are your child will too.
During the guided visualisation, I played the wonderful track “Peace and Quiet Mountain” from the from Beaming Kids CD by Tamar Dakes. A really lovely track.
For the classes that do artwork, each child was offered a ‘gratitude heart’. I asked them to think about someone in their life that they would like to give thanks to. I explained that they were going to give the material heart to that person with a note of why they wanted to thank that person. Wow. Some wonderful thanks came through. There were thanks given to cousins for ‘playing hide-and-seek with me’, to friends for ‘being my best friend ever’, to moms for ‘cooking me food every night’. A lot of gratitude came flowing through! This was not an easy task for the children since it is hard for them to give something away that they have just received. A lot of them did ask me a number of times whether they could rather just keep the material heart and simply pass on the card. ? But I explained (hopefully with compassion and kindness!) that our theme for the term is about adding handfuls of happiness to the world and expressing gratitude to others is one way in which we can achieve this.
And lastly, I asked the children to try to remember this week to tell their mom or dad one thing at bedtime each night that they were thankful for that day. Allow your child to express that gratitude in their own way. It’s not for us to dictate how they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ experience that sense of appreciation. Children will instinctively be drawn to what works for them, and what feels real and honest for them. So if it’s a gratitude jar – then great! If it’s a diary, great! If it’s telling a story or writing a poem or drawing a picture – great! If it’s saying a prayer – then great! Allow them the freedom to express their thanks from the heart.
I would like to leave you with this thought from Robert Holden: “The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”