Exploring gratefulness with our children is a natural for November. Many families count their blessings on Thanksgiving, but have you considered extending that practice beyond the holiday? It can have a huge impact on your relationships with other people and may even have positive benefits for your health.
In The Psychology of Gratitude, scientists Rollin McCraty and Doc Childre write that “cultivating positive emotions, such as appreciation and gratitude, can improve the heart’s rhythmic functioning. A well-functioning heart in turn sends signals to the cognitive and emotional centers in the brain.”
When we recognize and acknowledge the positive contributions made by those around us, it encourages them to practice that behavior more often. For example, putting things away seems to be an ongoing battle at our house. But I’ve noticed that when it does happen and is positively reinforced, (like “thanks for putting your toys away”) it happens again. By the way, this also works with spouses—my husband’s positive reinforcement has nudged me to keep my car neat and tidy.
Porcupines in North America have long, curved claws that make them very good climbers. As a result, they spend much of their time in trees. They may also sleep in rock crevices, hollow logs, or brush piles. Porcupines move slowly and have poor eyesight, but they have a very unique defense system to protect themselves from predators: 30,000 needle-like barbed quills. When a porcupine is threatened, it turns its back on the enemy and slaps its tail against the attacker. The porcupine’s quills come loose from its skin (they are just like our hair) and lodge in the other animal. Porcupines must be grateful for this prickly defense.
Make a gratefulness list. Sometimes we dwell on the negative in our life and it overshadows the good things. This month, take time to sit down with your children and make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your lives. If your children are old enough, encourage them each to make a list. Challenge yourselves to come up with 100 entries on this list. Share 25 of the entries at each of the Thursday night dinners in November.
Write one thank you note each week. Do you remember the last time you got an unexpected thank you note? Remember how it made you feel? When we are acknowledged by others for thoughtfulness or a job well done, it fills us with joy. Do your part and spread a little joy to the world by sending one thank you note every week. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: thank the teacher who spends extra time helping your child, the music instructor who is patient even when you forget to practice, the neighbor who rolls your garbage can down the driveway each week and the service person who was extremely helpful.
I Will Statements
- I will show my parents and teachers that I appreciate them.
- I will write thank you notes.
- I will take care of my things.
- I will be content with what I have.
- I will count my benefits rather than my burdens.
Putting Character First
The Character First! Project is inspired by the work of the Character Training Institute, a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City. Character First! information is used by permission. Call 405-815-0001 for Character First! resources or visit CharacterFirst.com.