Contributed by Dr. Alicia La Hoz, PsyD | 2013
Criticism, being judgmental and fault finding are all too often what prevails in the snippets of communication that occurs in many homes. Parents are often preoccupied with what should happen, what should have been said or on how much better things could have been done. This type of every day nagging tends to be awfully sour and demanding. It is human nature, after all, to find the speck in another’s eye, than to see what is on our own eye. We are consumed by the never ending demands of life, the ever-growing to-do-lists, the unfulfilled obligations waiting our attention – that there seems to be no room for being grateful for the responsibilities that are being fulfilled, for relationships that are thriving and for things that are generally going well. In a home, where parents are too busy with self-righteousness and where conversations have a critical and nagging tone, is it any wonder that children also assume an attitude of ingratitude? Could it be that children adopt an attitude that merely mirrors what they see day in and day out? If 365 days a year, parents are critical towards one another, forgetting to be thankful for even the small graces, should it really be surprising that our children often come across as entitled, that their words are often sprinkled with an air of self-righteousness?
Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday which makes all of us to stop in our consumerism-driven journey to evaluate what we do have and simply express our gratitude. Part of the tradition is for us to pass on the holiday-inspired gratefulness to our children. How do we teach our children to be thankful, to count all of their blessings and to trade in the otherwise attitude of entitlement or self-righteousness tends to hover over them? Of course, we can list several ideas to teach children gratitude. For example, we can encourage them to name one thing they are thankful a day from now till thanksgiving before they go to bed. That simple gesture would certainly help in steering them away from self to helping them focus on others and how richly blessed they are.
Instead of teaching your kids to be thankful this Thanksgiving season, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge. The gratitude challenge is more than a one-time action, but an attitude shift. Show grace to your spouse and to your child. Be less critical and judgmental of them and of others. Be less demanding and more accepting of them. Verbally recognize the little things they do for you. Praise and appreciate who they are and what they mean to you. By adopting an attitude of grace and thanksgiving in your own life, you will be modeling what thanksgiving really means. And in so doing, you can transform your life and that of your children so that you can have a lifestyle of thanksgiving that is beyond the one-day holiday.