So a few things first…
Fact: Gratitude is good for your brain.
Fact: We like talking about gratitude.
Fun fact: Kids can teach us a LOT about gratitude, and not just being thankful it’s Feb and they go back to school.
As a practitioner I often talk about how kids just seem to do some things really well; they instinctively know how to belly breathe, they ask why (constantly) and they are absolutely delighted when the smallest thing goes right (Hey dad, this booger looks just like an octopus!). They will also work especially hard towards a goal – like getting Thomas to the station every time wees go in the potty (more on this in a minute). They also (sometimes infuriatingly) get so absorbed in a task that they have no idea what else is going on around them. Another fascinating thing about kids is how adults communicate effectively with each other, compared to with kids. i.e. “what did you do at school today” (*crickets*) vs “what was your favourite thing today? (20 minute story about monkey bar competitions). Seeing these traits and interacting with this also helps to shape our view on gratitude and that is something that I would like to share with you, how kids help shape my view on gratitude.
Being grateful for the small things.
There is nothing more delightful than a child getting SUPER excited because they get to have the last slice of mango or because they can have bubbles in the bath or because Granny is coming around. The simplest of things can evoke the strongest of emotions and it’s so beautiful to see. This is also the reason why all parents get frustrated at their parents for over-spoiling their grandkids with noisy toys and chocolates; because seeing a child happy makes everyone else’s brain produce more happy hormones… except the parent who will hear ‘Row, Row, Row your boat,’ 400 times in the car trip home. But yes, delightful, children are genuinely happy at the smallest of wins, something we should definitely be doing more of!
I am a HUGE fan of this. Because what’s the point in working hard if you don’t reward yourself? Why would you run a race if not but for the free t-shirt and beer at the end (Tough Mudder we love you). The first time we went through toilet training the best way to get it done (haha) was to put a sticker of a train on a chart and when we had enough stickers (to create a lasting brain pattern), Thomas got home to the station. The reason this works so well is because we work a butt-load better (last pun, I swear) when we know there’s a REASON to work better. Worked hard for that promotion at work? Get yourself a jetski! Got up at 6am every morning for a workout for a month? Treat yourself to a day at the beach. Eaten all those pesky vegetables? Ice cream! Treat yourself for putting in the hard yards.
Be in the moment.
This one is probably the hardest for us but the easiest for them. There is nothing more fascinating or infuriating than a child playing with their cars, oblivious to that fact that you’re 20 minutes late for school, haven’t packed their lunch and have no idea when you’re going to fit in a quick trip to the shops or what’s for dinner.
Ask about favourite things.
Another dinner time ritual my family has, usually somewhere after “please, please, please eat SOMETHING green,” is playing Favourite Thing. It started as a conversational tool (thanks Bluey!) but has evolved into a lesson in gratitude, for all parties involved. We ask what each person’s favourite thing was today and spend a moment saying how lucky we are to have that food/toy/experience. We even do this at the extended family dinner table and it’s always interesting to see how others are entertained by the idea.
So whether you are just super grateful that it’s February and the kids are going back to school, or whether new starts and new years are your thing, gratitude can be a very powerful tool that helps us be in the moment, be appreciative and be happier with what we have. And watching little ones do the most random of things is an easy way to get there!
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