I am constantly thinking about how to teach my kids gratitude, and I am constantly thinking about how I can bring more gratitude into my life. I believe that we chose how we react to events in our lives, and I want the overriding sentiment in my life to be gratitude. But why gratitude? Because focusing on gratitude forces you to count all the good things in your life as opposed to the bad. And I think there is a direct link between gratitude and joy. Selfishly, I want my life and the lives of my family members to be joyful.
That said, my eight-year-old son can be a real ass, and it’s a daily battle to help him (and me) think positively. Forget about getting him to say kind and loving things to his little sister. The other morning he woke up practically snarling at us. I’ve considered nicknaming him coywolf in honor of the new carnivore that has emerged in the Eastern U.S.. After the third insult, I got so mad that I called him a jerk, and I stormed out of the room. When I finished running through a litany of the ways he’s disappointed me (inside my head), I regrouped and reminded myself of the things he’s good at and that he’s testing boundaries. Then I apologized to him for yelling, and, out of mom-guilt, I devised a new tactic for teaching gratitude.
Since Thanksgiving’s just around the corner, I implemented the Thankful Jar (kudos to Pinterest). Each day, every member of the family has to think of something they are thankful for, write it down, and put it in the jar. On Thanksgiving day, before the rest of my family descends upon us, we will take fifteen or twenty minutes and read everything we’ve put in the jar. You don’t have to use fancy paper or a special paper punch (I did because I have them and look for reasons to justify having bought them). If you have a mason jar in your house, that’s great. If not, use a tall drinking glass or vase. Make this fun and easy for everyone.
The Thankful Jar is a small push-up with a big impact. While I admire the NPR interviewee who spent a year living by the rules of the Bible (and discovered that practicing daily gratitude changed how he approached life more than anything else), my family needs something we can fit daily into our too-busy lives between now and Thanksgiving. The Thankful Jar requires five minutes a day, a jar, small pieces of paper, and a pen.