The Two Most Important Words

Purposeful Parent Tip:  Teaching your child to be grateful may be the single most important lesson they learn.

“Thank you, sir.  And a Merry Christmas to you too!” These are the two lines that my daughter will recite in her school’s Christmas play starting today. While not exactly the
lines of a leading role, they may very well be the most important words anyone
will utter.

Being grateful. It’s tough to teach kids to be grateful for all they have especially when they have a lot. It’s even harder to teach them that there are others who not only have less than they do, but in today’s world, many have nothing.

Since being laid off a few years ago and starting my own business, my children have seen a change in our lifestyle. There are less whimsical purchases and more messages of “put it on your birthday or Christmas list”. At first it was a bit hard for them, but they have gotten used to it and I think they recognize that them doing without the latest fashion or video game isn’t that big of a deal especially when it means that their mom is home when they get home from school or that they are able to participate in activities they weren’t able to before when I was working full-time and could not take time off.

Like most things in life, there are always trade-offs.

In trying to teach them compassion and empathy for others, we have done many a volunteer activity together, whether it be packing up food items in bins for sick children or donating clothing to the local shelter.  Each time, we talk about how our actions will have a positive impact on others even in a small way. But even though they don’t
know who the recipient is, they do know that what we’re doing is making a difference.

What are other things that make a difference and help teach our children to be grateful? Simple things like not getting one red light when we’re running late for a game. Or finding a quarter in the parking lot. Or, when mom says ‘yes, you can stay up a few minutes later.’ Being able to appreciate the little things will only serve to help them be grateful for the larger gifts they will receive in their lives.

Years ago, we used to spend a few minutes at the dinner table talking about all of the positive things that occurred during the day. Each of us had to think of three things that made us happy. I’m not sure when we stopped, but I think I may resurrect that little tradition as we enter the new year.

What’s the key to being grateful? Paying attention. Pay attention to the gifts you have and know that if you live in the United States, no matter what your circumstances, it’s likely you are better off than most of the people in the world. And while my children may never fully understand that concept, teaching them to be grateful for friends, family, their education, and a mom who’s home when they return from school, may very well be a good start.





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