We all have busy lives, and in a fast-paced world, gratitude often gets shoved aside in the rush to finish things. However, when we stop and take a minute, there are many things around us that we can be thankful for. Teaching ourselves and our children how to take a second to enjoy our surroundings allows us to focus and appreciate what is happening around us.
Situations or things that have happened during the day that upset or frustrate jump to our thoughts first, which sometimes isn’t the best time to respond. When a negative situation impacts our minds quickly, we tend to react with frustration and negativity. However, there can be many wonderful things happening around us that don’t receive any acknowledgment. Learning to look for good things happening around us and waiting to respond during frustration helps create and sustain a positive and healthy mindset.
Focusing on gratitude has been shown to positively impact how children respond to life situations and deal with life’s gifts and challenges. Being able to help a child to learn to look for positives requires a conscious focus on the positive happening within their environment until it becomes natural. Learning to look for the little things to be thankful for and acknowledging them will bring life-changing results for you and your children as they address challenges. Focusing on gratitude has also impacted how people approach unexpected conflicts. Positive thoughts or thoughts about wonderful things you’re thankful for impact how your brain processes and addresses challenging things.
Taking time to ask your kids what happened today that was special or good causes them to begin focusing on positive things around them. Learning to be thankful and appreciate what others do for you is a life skill your children will use all their life. It may seem like you are forcing them to say thank you, but this is how children begin to recognize and form the habit of expressing their appreciation. Even though you are guiding them, other adults realize you are showing everyone around you the importance of reinforcing gratitude to children. Another way to support your children in learning to be grateful is by writing thank you notes or a thank you letter to a coach or teacher who has supported them.
It takes extra effort to focus on the positives as you clean up the spilled milk on the carpet. It becomes a pivotal teaching moment to model how unexpected things happen, but they can be cleaned up, and you can move on to the next activity. It will be well worth the time spent modeling gratitude, so they understand seeing good even if something little seems bad.
As a parent, reinforcing when you see them showing gratefulness for something will strengthen their ability to recognize its importance. Expressing your appreciation when they show gratitude is the best reinforcer and will be with them as they pass it on to possible children of their own one day. For example, thanking them for helping you clean up the spill or completing a task will reassure your child of your love for them. There will come a time when your child thanks someone for something, and you’ll have that rush of feeling so proud of them. Embrace that moment, and smile.
Scott Smith has worked in education for 40 years. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Western Oregon University, Masters from Lesley University and Doctorate from Northcentral University in Arizona. He spent 27 years in elementary classrooms in Umatilla, finishing his experience there as their reading coach. He then became an assistant professor at Eastern Oregon University in the elementary pre-service teacher program.
Currently, he is an instructional coach for the InterMountain ESD, serving 18 rural school districts. His major area of focus is pre-reading skills and reading instruction along with classroom instructional support. Smith currently lives in Mosier with his wife.