I’ll be the first in the carpool line to say I’m no expert on child development. I’m nowhere near a parenting coach or (God forbid) a life coach. And I’m the very last mom to tell you the best way to do anything, because, for starters, I have no idea. But I do want to talk to you about how to raise a thankful kid, because I think about that a lot, and I think it’s important.
And I think it’s really hard.
We probably all had some really smart grandparents or great grandparents who we wish we could call up on a regular basis and ask them for their advice about all kinds of things. But in this case, I can’t imagine what they’d say that would work or make any sense today at all. Because the world…especially the consumer world…is so impossibly different from the one they parented through.
For starters, for some of their lifetimes, they didn’t have electricity. Or plastic. Or television. And my son’s favorite game involves putting collectible plastic characters on a portal of power that magically makes said characters appear on a giant screen that can be manipulated through 27 worlds with a magical Wi-Fi remote. And if that’s not enough (and it clearly isn’t), he wants the new version of that for Christmas.
We are doomed.
To change things even more dramatically, last week’s events shifted the Christmas season for me. Of course we all know in our minds and hearts that the most wonderful time of the year is really not about the toys or the tinsel or whatever. But, let’s face it, the toys and the tinsel are fun, and it’s easy to get swept away in the magic of it all. It’s also easy to lose meaning in all that magic. No matter what you’re celebrating this season, we always want to keep an eye on the sacred. And last Friday was a devastating reminder about what is sacred. It was like hitting a brick wall of eyes-wide-open about what’s sacred, what’s precious, and what we are thankful for in our own lives.
I am thankful for my seven-year-old son. I told him that about 15 times over the weekend. And while I’m 100% positive my grandparents could never get their brains around what happened last week (who can?), as I was feeling the urge to constantly hug my son and tell him how loved he is, I was reminded of this little weird sewn plaque thing my grandfather had on his desk. It said: “Show, Grow, Go.” I never really knew what that meant to him specifically…but I’d like to think it went something like this….
1. Show. Demonstrate thankfulness. I talk about thankfulness a bit over on my blog today, and I’m learning how to do it. Or, I’m trying to learn how to do it. I think that’s the key. And I think that’s key to show your kids. Show them how to be thankful for things by trying to be actively thankful for things. Speak it out loud. Set a practice. Talk about it. Bring it to life. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about How to Raise a Kid That Gives Back. This is a circle. Or math. Actively Trying to Be Thankful + Actively Working to Give Back = Kids Who are Mindful About Being Thankful and Giving Back.
2. Grow. You have not arrived. You don’t have it all figured out. You are not the best at this. And by you, I mean me. I hope I’m still learning how to do this better when I’m 92. Talk about this with your kid. Tell her that you’re still growing in this area…and that we as people all work to grow in this all the time. It’s hard. It’s hard to remember to be thankful as an adult…even when we know we really want to be. We live in an environment where more is more and there’s never enough. That’s what we hear most of the time. We should introduce thankfulness into the conversation as well. It will help us grow.
3. Go. Do things as a family to remind yourselves to be thankful. I’m going to talk about this more tomorrow right here in the next post about “How to Raise a Kid Who Gives Back,” but the gist is, go give back. Plan it. Make it a family thing. And go. Helping others in need is the number one way to be reminded of all you have to be thankful for. There are a million ways to do it, and ’tis the season. Start now and keep it going.
We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.