" To raise grateful kids, be grateful for your kids. "- Janice Kaplan
How is your gratitude journey coming along so far? I have kept my gratitude journey afloat almost daily. I missed a couple days, but then I went back to capture the gratitude later. Although I could fairly easily list items to be grateful for after the fact, I found, interestingly to me, that I had a harder time conjuring up the feeling of gratitude that went along with them after the fact. That has been the part I enjoy the most about being grateful- how it makes me feel! Daily!
If you are new to the blog, I am "hosting" a virtual book club at the moment and the book I am talking about is called The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. You are welcome to join in at any time. We have already discovered it is less about reading the book than it is about actually practicing gratitude in our everyday lives. Nonetheless, through the book we go. This week I am covering chapter three, "Raising Grateful Kids."
Kaplan talks fairly early on about how her tendency had always been to interject all kinds of ideas on her kids about what they possibly need or how to improve their lives. I can only speak for myself, but that sounded rather familiar to me. She also went on to say how exhausting it was for her and so when she decided to let that go and instead sit back and enjoy them for their best traits in the moment, how much more relaxed and fulfilling the interactions were. Different aged kids have different needs, of course, but in a nutshell, isn't that what it's all about? Being able to take a step back from the have to's and should's and just breathe in the what is for even just a minute? If you are reading this and have little ones and feel exasperated by their activity levels or running around after them, take in some of the joy of that, for I tell you it is fleeting those times. Be like a dog and wag for them when hey get home from school, that is to say, light up when you see them. Don't let the first thing out of your mouth be something "negative." As my kids have gotten older, I now find that much easier to do because one is already fairly independent, a junior in college out-of-state, and my youngest is a senior in high school, also to be going out of state for college. In fact, earlier this past fall, when she was kind of moody (she won't read this so I can tell you-lol) and we weren't connecting as much as I wanted (she is my baby, after all), I did use gratitude and appreciation as a way to reach her and it worked. For a while I wrote her weekly "love and appreciation" notes, only affirming good things she'd done or experienced and even what great things were in her future.I never ended it with PS , but your bathroom is really a mess, or don't forget to put away your laundry! Sometimes it was really hard to bite my tongue about some of the things getting on my nerves, but that wasn't how I was going to connect with her, so I let them be (hard for me!). I haven't written one in a while and this chapter has sparked a renewed interest in doing that for me. Oh, and if you need another idea, I recently saw on Facebook this idea to place a heart a day on your child's bedroom door with something you love about them written on them, every day for 14 days in February for Valentine's day. But really, it would be a great thing to do anytime. We all love to feel appreciated and seen (In fact, while you are at it, write a love note to yourself , too. Self-appreciation is highly under-rated, and you, my friend, are an amazing, miraculous being).
The one thing though that really stood out for me from Chapter 3 was how kids didn't want to feel indebted and somehow confused that with the ability to feel grateful, even for kids as old as college aged or slightly older. That left me scratching my head. Almost no one in my experience gets anywhere in life without help along the way, even if it's only words of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. I'll have to explore that one a little more. And perhaps our young adults all need to as well. As Yale President Peter Salovey once conveyed to a graduation class, "the need to express gratitude reminds us that we are not entirely in control; that we might be indebted or dependent; that our destiny is not entirely in our hands; indeed that on occasion we are vulnerable." He later went on to say, "the good life may be out of reach unless we are able to cultivate an openess to accepting help from others and expressing gratitude for that help." It takes a village after all....
I did have an ah-ha moment , though, when I read about the chemistry of the adolescent brain and gratitude. I bet if you are a parent, you have had more than one occasion where you thought (or possibly even expressed out loud) that your kids were completely ungrateful "for everything you do for them or everything they have." Sound familiar? Well apparently, as Kaplan states, "neuroscientists have shown that different regions of the brain develop at different rates. The prefontal cortex which controls reasoning and executive control, is on the slow track." So the reason kids don't know how lucky they are is because they don't. Their brains don't do that sort of thing yet. Oh, knowing this could really be helpful for parents everywhere! I sure could have used this way back when. I have tried to influence my kids gratitude practice by getting them each a journal, which neither one adopted. I have encouraged them to at least think about what they are grateful for but haven't prodded as to if they do that on a regular basis or not. Kaplan talks about different activities as a way to get kids to express what they are grateful for. In most homes it is the stuff of the Thanksgiving table, once a year, but imagine how amazing it would be to have that be our daily lives? One of the experts she consulted, Christine Carter from Berkeley, California said "Finding silver linings gives kids at any age more resilience and helps them short-circuit anxiety." That can only be a good thing.
What was your favorite take away from this chapter? Do your kids have or did they have a regular gratitude practice growing up? Do you already have in place a way to regularly appreciate your kids to their faces?I am so interested to know! Thanks for reading along with me. I'm so grateful you are here. ♥