The art of gratitude is one that I want to pass down to our girls. Gratitude recognizes that we are owed nothing and everything we have is a gift. I never want our girls to feel entitled to more. Gratefulness is focusing on what is instead of what isn’t.
When I come from a place of gratefulness, it is hard to feel slighted or discontent. Staying focused on the blessings in my life brings joy and peace.
Part of our family culture is being grateful.
Thank you notes
At a very young age, the girls were expected to send thank you notes for gifts. When the girls were toddlers, I would take a picture of them with gifts that were given at birthdays or other holidays and send the pictures out as a thank you note.
Once the girls were old enough to enjoy art, they would make cards. Their first thank you notes were simple crayon marks on a blank card. Eventually, they would be able to color a whole picture and dictate to me what they would like to say. Then they were able to add their name. Finally, they had the ability to write a personal and meaningful note without my help.
Now they are all old enough that I encourage them to not only say thanks but also tell the person what they like about the gift or if it is money how they plan on using it. It is a good practice to appreciate each gift and see the value in it not just saying thanks and moving on.
I write thank you notes as well. It isn’t just a habit that the girls are expected to do but one that is modeled for them. I love stationary and it makes writing notes more fun when there are many options to choose from. So stock up on fun thank you notes!
Roses & Thorns
When our family first moved to Illinois 7 years ago, I heard Henry Cloud speak about gratefulness. One gratitude practice he suggested was to let each person talk about their “rose”, high point, and “thorn”, low point at the dinner table nightly. This practice helped us to celebrate with one another and also empathize with one another.
Roses & thorns helps kids see that thorns are momentary they don’t ruin a day or an experience. We have bad moments but not bad days. It is important to our family culture to give time for hardship, grief, disappointment, and suffering but not let it define us.
Our family chooses to focus on the rose of the day. Each day is a blessing in itself. We can all find something to be grateful for. I find it interesting to hear what Mike and the girls see as roses. It gives me a different perspective on our days and what is meaningful to each person.
I inconsistently journal. My natural tendency is to be a thinker, but writing out my thoughts takes tangible effort. I have found writing one thing I am grateful for during particularly trying times to boost my spirit. Journaling is one of those practices that I only pull out when absolutely necessary.
However, I have a couple of girls who have a lot of words. They are writers through and through. They journal daily and are always running out of paper. I encourage them to journal about what they are grateful for, looking at life as a glass half full. They definitely write about hardship and disappointment but there is good in the mess of life and that needs to be written as well.
As this month is coming to a close, it has been refreshing to focus on the habits that I want to cultivate in myself and our family. I see what rhythms our family already has, areas in which I which we were more consistent, and new rhythms I would like to add.
How do you cultivate gratitude in your family culture?
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