Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude

I have read Kristen Welch's blog We are THAT Family for years, and I've always appreciated her openness and honesty. So, when I discovered that she had a new book coming out, I knew I wanted to read it. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is an encouraging read — one that I really can't wait to read again. The book's official release is January 26 and I highly recommend it. It made me consider my own family's level of gratitude, so I thought I'd write down what I discovered in the hope of encouraging others. 

How grateful are we really?

The kids and I have an exercise we've done pretty much every day for the past six months or so. It’s not a physical exercise — it’s more like a mental one. Each person has to tell me something that they’re grateful for. The first few times we did this they went for the most obvious answers, “I’m thankful for food, clothes, or video games” but the longer we’ve done this I've started hearing well thought out answers. I’ve since heard anything from, “I’m thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice for me” to “I’m really thankful for air conditioning!” 

I’m sorry to admit that practicing gratefulness hasn’t been something we’ve done much of before this past year. It’s not that we were ungrateful, I just didn’t place any importance on speaking it out loud. I had never thought of my kids as being especially ungrateful. It wasn’t nearly as noticeable when they were smaller, but the older they get, the more noticeable it becomes. 

It started small like complaining when told to do something, but gradually grew until finally on birthdays and Christmas they’d open up their gifts and say, “Is that all? But I wanted…” I began to discover other areas where they were becoming more ungrateful. Housework fell to my shoulders and they’d complain when told to do their share; they’d say they’d rather have anything else to eat rather than what I had worked hard to prepare; they’d complain because they didn’t have the cool gadgets that all of their friends have or because we wouldn’t let them do what So-and-So’s parents let them do; etc. 

When my children start to behave a certain way it's usually a signal that I should examine myself to see if the same behaviors are evident in my own life. The last thing I want to do is tell my kids that their attitudes are wrong only to discover that they learned it from their mother. Of course I saw that I was ungrateful as well — and talk about a rude awakening. 

A Look Back...

My childhood was completely different from my children’s. I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, the oldest of three kids. My mom stayed home to homeschool my brother, sister, and I while my dad worked as the manager of a convenience store next door to our home. We lived in a single wide trailer for most of my childhood before moving to a small house nearby. My parents never owned their own home. I wasn’t allowed to date and I was extremely shy. I went to church and occasionally to a friend’s house, but most of the time I stayed at home and I preferred it that way. My parents didn’t have the money to buy me a car or even the “cool” clothes the other girls in the youth group wore so I earned my spending money by babysitting or ironing clothes for people in our church. I worked hard in school, graduated a year early, and left for college in the fall of 1997.

Ron and I met during my fourth year in school and we married a year later. We spent the first two years of our marriage living in a trailer on his parents’ property. Our oldest child, Z, was born while we lived there. We both worked at the local newspaper until Ron was offered a job in another state. We moved 450 miles away from family and friends to start a new life. 

God has blessed us richly in the 11 years we’ve lived here. I was supposed to find a job and go back to work after getting settled in, but He had other plans and provided a way for me to stay at home. Three kids later I’m still at home with them and have never regretted it. 

After I noticed hearts of ungratefulness in the kids I began to see where I showed the same ungratefulness. I complained because we couldn’t knock out a wall. I whined that our house was too small and thought we needed something bigger. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough that God had already provided me with the nicest house I had ever lived in because I wanted something bigger and better. It also wasn’t enough that we had all sorts of amenities like the fastest internet, the newest iPhones, a minivan with heated seats and a built-in entertainment system, I just wanted more, more, more. 

Once God revealed to me the depth of my own entitlement and reminded me of where I came from, my heart began to change. I realized that I needed to speak openly to my children about how blessed we are as a family. Instead of comparing ourselves with those that have more than us we needed to compare ourselves with the enormous number of people that have less than we do. When you look at what you have through the eyes of someone with less you begin to see things differently and will hopefully become a more grateful person. 

I have perspective because I can compare my life now to my life growing up. Although I know what it’s like to go without, I've also lived for years with the freedom to hop on Amazon any time I like. I can spend $50 or $75 to have something delivered to my door within two days and never give it a second thought. It doesn’t take one long to get used to a certain lifestyle, and I guess I've settled in pretty comfortably to the one I have now. My children, though, don't have anything to look back on to show them how blessed they are. It's my job to encourage activities that promote an attitude of gratitude. Practicing gratefulness is something we should all do more of. I look forward to implementing other “grateful” activities with the kids over the course of this new year. My hope is that by the end of 2016 we are a less entitled family and a more grateful one. 

How do you inspire an attitude of gratitude in your home?

Ideas to Practice Gratefulness:

I found some really great ideas for practicing gratefulness on Pinterest: 

We actually already do the Thankful Tree each November.

This lady is one of my favorite bloggers.

A gratitude journal sounds like something we should try. 

I like the idea of more responsibility for the kids.