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Want To Teach Gratitude At Home…Try These Steps

For ideas on how to teach gratitude at home check out my
Family Matters with Amber Thanks Giving Gratitude Project
Originally published in my November Column.

The biggest complaint I hear from people who don’t have children is that ‘Kids now-a-days are unappreciative’. I hate that. When someone groups all adolescents together as if the current generation is solely made up of those they’ve come in contact with negatively, or read about in the newspapers and online (also negatively).

There are plenty of families (you’re probably one of them) doing the best they can to raise their kids with good habits and behavior. That said, we’re fighting the tide. We know it’s a selfie-generation. We also know there are plenty of two-working-parent households (and plenty of divorced ones) who just want the best for their kids. Translation: “I want you to have what I never had and I’m also going to throw in whatever else I can to make up for anything I might lack along the way”. Okay, this isn’t bad. It sounds bad, and I know parents are judged for it all the time, but while it can certainly produce entitled children and worse behaving adults, it is a sign that parents truly do love their kids. And that my friends, is a good thing! But back to that problem-over-time-thing. That will become an issue. But guess what? There’s a revere button!

Thanksgiving. We learned it’s about giving, taking, sharing, and celebrating by showing appreciation. We all know a kid (maybe even our own) who begs, pleads and does their best to convince us they ‘need’ something they don’t. They might forget their manners or they don’t ask permission to borrow something from a family member. Maybe they completely ignore a deserved thank you that should have accompanied a good deed done for them. I don’t know about you, but I think my kids lack manners and appreciation most when it’s against their siblings. My 13-year-old MC (middle child) put it like this once:  ‘It’s just that they [siblings] will always be there, and well, I guess, it’s just that I know they always will be’. Ouch. Obviously, my middle child has never been married, but you might think so after hearing this statement. Isn’t she right though? Hardest sometimes to show appreciation for those who are always there. None of this means the child (or your spouse) is a brat, spoiled or selfish. It just makes ‘em human. So how do we teach appreciation in the current world, where so much is about me-self-I-buy and get?

The ‘Thanks & Giving Project’ is a way of getting families (including my own) to appreciate what they have, recognize what they’re grateful for, and find opportunities to make others feel good (even complete strangers). Parents, it’s not just kids who need reminding. When someone opens a door for you, do you say thank you and hold it open for the person behind you? It’s one of the simplest gestures; men and women refer to it as chivalry if a man does it. I call it courtesy (and we should all do it). Thanksgiving. Receiving, appreciating, giving back. It’s a positive cycle we could stand to have more of, in general, not just in youth society. If you’re married and have never done ‘The Love Dare’, I really challenge you to give this project some thought.
Here’s how it works: Every five days, beginning on the first day of November, you will have something to accomplish. The first task will be carried daily throughout the month, and then there are a few other things you should do during November. It all ends (if you want it to) on November 30th.  

Here we go:

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11/1: The B.A.G. Journal. I learned this at a work conference many years ago. It works! Make a list daily of these things: Blessings, Goals and Accomplishments. If you forget a day, no big deal, do it before bed or on the next morning (some people do it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, but start small). If you already do this at home, open it up to dinner discussion to learn about the members of your family.

11/5: Give one thing away for the month of November. Allow the person to give it back to you on Thanksgiving. Not begrudgingly, and allow them free use of it.

11/10: Celebrate with someone in the family over an achievement. Give them a card or flowers, make them a treat or craft, you might want to offer them a foot massage (that last one is popular with moms).

11/15: Give away something of yours permanently to someone less fortunate.

11/20: Buy someone something with money you earned doing work. (Excellent for siblings-watch how some will hate to do this.)

11/25: Make someone a meal or a dish: Just something to eat even if it’s just cheese and crackers or a bowl of ice cream. Waiting on someone with a cup of coffee or glass of milk is the same as making a meal because it’s such a nice gesture (so small-but so big to the person receiving it). The timing of this task might encourage you to call your local church to see if you can help cook and donate a meal, invite a neighbor, single or elderly person, into your home for the holidays.

11/30: As a family, take out a blank sheet of paper and write out what you would do with a million dollars (cannot be spend on yourself). Would you donate to a charity? Would you help someone you know? How much of it would you give?  Now write out what you would do if you were given $100.00 of it back.

Sometime during the course of the month:

Volunteer somewhere. Do someone’s last fall law mowing, help with someone’s grocery shopping, call a local center that serves people, or even animals, in the community. There are plenty of them. Call 211 if you aren’t sure. How about cleaning someone’s house or helping out a teacher after school to grade papers or prepare for class project?

Trade places with someone at home for a weekend or a day (swap chores). Kids could swap with mom and dad. We always think we have it hard until we live in someone else’s shoes. Remember the show Wfe Swap, back in the late 90’s? That show proved how each family member lived in a bubble (their own life/household) never seeing another’s. But appreciating theirs when everything went back to normal after mom came home.

Send 3 Thank You cards in November. These could be to a parent for all the FREE taxiing, a child for being a good helper, or just for someone being themselves and special to you, it could also be a teacher, coworker or friend. Ideally, someone who most likely doesn’t get much praise or appreciation.

Send 1 note to cheer someone up. It might be a neighbor with plaguing problems (whether bad luck, ill decision making or constant health struggles) we all need to be lifted up, a person who had surgery, a teen going through puberty. (Come on, puberty is serious stuff! Hint: I’d leave out the word ‘puberty’.)
I read once, in Randy Paush’s “Last Lecture”, ‘it’s just a thing’. He was, of course, referring to his new VW Rabbit, while pouring a can of orange soda on his new white seats just prior to taking his niece and nephew out in it. His example for living, and treating others, is a lesson to be admired and respected. At the end of the night his nephew would vomit in the backseat. And it wouldn’t matter…to anyone.

Sometimes we need to shift our focus to be able to gather a better perspective. It's often most effective when we take the attention off of ourselves, no matter how old we are.

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