thankful children, grateful

The holiday season is upon us. It’s a time to give thanks, rejoice, and fill our hearts with love and gratitude.

by Lindsay Rose

It’s a joyous time of year, but let’s face it, for many of us it is also a season marked with excess, overbooked schedules and stress. It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in lists, plans and celebrations. As adults, when we reach our breaking point, most of us have learned to take a step back, look at the big picture and be grateful for things that matter most: family, good health, shelter, food…the basics. However, these moments of reflection don’t come naturally for most kids. It’s up to us to help our children stay grounded, grateful and gracious, and there is never a more perfect time to teach these lessons than now.

Grounding your children… the good way

When you talk about being grounded with your children, chances are it has an entirely different meaning. In this sense, being grounded is great thing! Regardless of the terminology you use with your kids, teaching them to be grounded in life is really the foundation of raising grateful children. Grounding your children starts with setting reasonable expectations, followed by a good dose of perspective.

When your son’s wish list for Santa has 20-something items or your daughter’s plans include three parties, two concerts, a day at Six Flags and every other school activity, it’s time to have a conversation that sets expectations. For Mr. I-Want-It-All, “I see you’ve got quite a list here. Remember that Santa has a lot of other children’s wishes to grant too, let’s narrow this list down to your top three or four so he doesn’t think you’re being greedy.” For the overcommitted child, “It’s a busy time of year for all of us. I have my holiday party for work and your brother has been invited to a few things as well. Let’s try not to have more than two activities outside of school a week.”

If you’re a parent whose child has never thrown a fit over something petty, congratulations! You can skip this part (liar). If not, it’s time to have a talk with your kid about perspective. There was a meme that made the rounds on Facebook recently that said, “Hell hath no fury like a toddler who wanted the green cup instead of the orange cup.”

While toddlers are certainly known for petty fits, they’re not the only ones to lose sight of the big picture. The next time your child or teen acts entitled or gets upset because Mom or Dad had the nerve to say no to something, remind them how their friend’s dad works two jobs just so they can pay for the things they need. Remind them that you used to have to leave a message on an answering machine that was AT HOME when it was time for your mom to pick you up, then sit there and hope she got it soon. Yes, it sounds kind of like the, “There are starving children in Africa” lecture our parents used to give us. But guess what? There really are starving children in Africa. If you can share true stories and imagery (use the Internet, most of us didn’t have that at our disposal as children) that will resonate with your children and the situation, it will provide good food for thought for them to contemplate while they are grounded—in the not-so-good way.