Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and we fill our minds with many thoughts about what we ‘should’ be doing. Not all of us…but many of us find life moving in this direction. We want to be focused on our higher values of love, gratitude, and happiness, but these are often getting side-tracked through attention to demands, schedules, and to-do lists.
However, let’s consider changing our intentions, at least for the days ahead, and perhaps discover what happens. Even in these busy times, we can, if we choose it, turn our intentions toward honoring our highest values.
Let’s consider giving and gratitude. The very act of giving, when offered without hope for reward or return, brings fascinating benefit. Even when feeling some ‘lack’ in our lives, these moments of giving yield a reward of immense gratitude, instantly and automatically. It just flows into us with overwhelming feelings of warmth and appreciation.
For some of us, however, we see that our children do not seem to have an interest in such moments. Instead, for many, there is only interest in receiving. So what can we do to build more gratitude this Thanksgiving in our homes? Here are a few tips.
Giving and Gratitude Are Two Sides of the Same Coin
We often want to nurture more gratitude with our family, because we see that over and over that our children seem only to want more—as we give them more. Is this always true? Of course not.
But for most, we see that children learn to become ‘takers’ because that’s the world they grow up in. Day in and day out, they are there to absorb the benefits of all that mom and dad, and family, do for them.
In order to have the real experience of gratitude, one beautiful pathway is that of giving. Now sometimes the giving is only in what we ‘give’ our attention to. Sometimes it is a moment of giving a smile. Sometimes it is a moment of giving our time. Sometimes it is more, in giving someone our place in line or a moment of forgiveness for their actions of greed or anger.
At home, many of us give and give to our children, hoping that one day they will begin to be truly grateful for all the abundance they have in their life. Yes, it doesn’t seem to happen! Why? Because we expose them to the opposite.
‘Getting’ and Greed Are Two Sides of the Another Coin
When children only experience ‘getting’ we see that many children (and adults) only become interested in more getting more (i.e., otherwise known as greed). It’s not a complicated or mysterious process, as this is natural.
When children simply get, get, and get even more—they become ‘hooked’ on the getting. There is no opportunity for their brains to have that experience of ‘gratitude’ that opens naturally from truly giving from the heart.
How often do we see children now getting more than we could have dreamed of—and yet only having disappointment because they want more?
This is habit of wanting more comes from the life of constantly ‘getting’ without giving…
Teach Giving as a Way of Finding Gratitude
Beginning today, perhaps we worry less about signing up for a new sport every season, and more about Saturday afternoons at grandma’s house helping out (without getting paid). Perhaps rather than making sure we run out to get those new shoes they want, we allow them to put the effort in around the house in order to earn some of that. For your children, having ‘skin in the game’ does create a much greater sense of value and appreciation for ‘stuff’ in our lives. We can even add to this by focusing less on making sure everything is ‘done’ for our kids, and instead requiring them to do more for themselves.
An even deeper sense of gratitude is earned however through the giving of our time, our love, and our efforts. Thus, immense lessons in gratitude unfold when we volunteer at church, temple, homeless shelters, food pantries, hospitals, youth groups, and other organizations. Why? Because we NOW require participation in the giving process. The research shows that children who become active early on as volunteers tend to become lifetime volunteers.
Remember: Through Giving Freely…Our Gratitude Grows
So, whether it’s a grandparent, neighbor, friend, church, or your community, make sure that your children give on a larger level. And as a family, also require that your children give more to being a part of the family. This builds responsibility as it also creates more appreciation through the act of daily contribution. Teach them early, the benefits of giving. And remember, part of the solution here is to limit how much they get with no effort attached. The more they become ‘give me’ kids…the less they will give of themselves and the less they will find gratitude in their lives.