The Importance of Being Grateful

gratitude_rockIt is becoming more and more apparent to me that too many kids live in a world of want and don’t know how to express gratitude for what they already have. I realize that there are an infinite amount of variables that make up each child’s environment and the quality of the nurturing they receive. I am a big proponent of the concept of BALANCE. Without going all philosophical on you here I see life as a balance between the good and the bad, the want and the need, the beautiful and the less pleasing. For me everything exists for a reason. In order to conclude that something is beautiful, let’s say, you would need to perceive that something is ugly. You need something to compare it to in order to realize that one seems beautiful and the other not so much. I hope you get what I’m trying to explain here.

Today it seems that so many of our kids live in a world they believe should be filled with only the positive aspects of life. They feel entitled to beauty, fame, success, and material wealth and comfort. Why they feel this way is for another post… If you live in a world where you expect only the best it’s easy to forget or even not be aware of your good fortunes and become disgruntled and angry at a state of being that puts you in a less than beautiful, famous, successful, or comfortable place. I actually get where this indignation comes from. If you are never taught to be grateful for what you have you can’t possibly recognize that some instances of want are not life shattering, perpetual, or so burdensome that you will not be able to arrive on the other side of this want without some sort of scar. 

As an adult have you ever been in a situation that you found to be overwhelming. All you see and feel is the heavy weight of this life experience. Let’s say you hired a painter to paint your house. You picked out the perfect color. Once the paint is applied and dry you see something different than what you expected and immediately tell the contractor that they have made a terrible mistake. The color that’s on your house is the exact shade you picked out. You just don’t like it now that it’s on your house. Some of you will go into a tirade. You’ll blame the contractor. You’ll threaten not to pay. You may actually not pay for the services provided. This event took you to a place of discomfort. It made you view your house as less than beautiful. In that instant I would hope that you have developed the ability to be grateful for what you have. In the grand scheme of things you still have a house to live in. You are not like the many families who suffer the loss of their home due to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, or fire. THIS is the perspective that we are failing to teach our kids. Acquiring a balance in your response will not immediately change the course of an event but it will allow you to put into perspective the true severity of what you are facing and hopefully facilitate a more deliberate and controlled response to it.

Let’s live in a child’s world for a moment. If they are school age they interact with their peers daily. They share likes and dislikes. They share their wants and needs. They critique what’s cool and what’s not. They label. According to this basis of information they treat their peers, their family, and the authority figures in their lives with a level of respect or disrespect, a tone of acceptance or rejection, and label these people based on how and what they bring into their lives. Couple a child’s tendency to be demanding and readily rewarded with the inability to be grateful for what they already possess and you have a child who is in a perpetual state of want and deprivation.

How you develop a sense of gratitude in your child is up to you. Some of you use the teachings of your religion to instill the values you feel your child needs to become a well-rounded adult. Developing empathy for others goes far to help a child recognize the many ways we share the same life experiences. A sense of responsibility toward others and being mindful of the impact our actions have on other people allows a child to think beyond themselves and relate to the life events of others. Learning to recognize what is truly necessary and what is merely a want develops a crucial balance in the way a child will learn to work through a difficult time of need. It goes without saying that I am assuming that all basic human needs are being met. Every child deserves food, shelter, clothing, love and attention.

My husband drove to Joplin, Missouri after the tornadoes hit in 2011. He went to help with the debris recovery process. The photos that he brought back told a story of complete devastation. He told me many stories about the homes, the school, and the hospital that was destroyed. He also told me of the wonderful people he met. In the midst of all they had lost and the shock of the enormous chore that faced them as they tried to figure out how to repair the damage, the people he met were grateful. Yes, they had lost their home – but they were alive. Yes, they lost their school – but they were grateful knowing the surrounding communities banded together to help them plan for ways to educate their children moving forward. Yes, they only had the clothes on their back and a few precious possessions they were able to find near where their home once stood – but they were grateful for my husband’s help and every day they came up to him to thank him and offer him water and food and ask how he was doing that day. You see, it’s all a matter of balance. It’s all a matter of perspective. Be grateful for what you have. Find the lesson in what you lose. My hope is that we can teach our kids to be grateful for what they have before they demand more. Be cognizant of their want compared to the needs of others. Perhaps they can learn to forego a want or tolerate a sudden feeling of need and focus on what is really important and necessary. Sometimes being grateful for what’s right in front of your nose is worth more than anything new you could acquire.

By Gret Boyd

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