With all this talk about gratitude, compassion, and kindness this month, it got me thinking. As parents, we say we want to raise our kiddos to be grateful, compassionate, and kind, but do our priorities and our own actions truly reflect that desire?
How much time do we really spend trying to cultivate these character traits in our kids?
We must step back and ask ourselves, “Are we really raising the kids we mean to raise?”
Harvard University performed a study on this very concept. Most of the children who took part said they felt their parents placed more emphasis on their academic achievement and personal happiness than they did on fostering gratitude and compassion.
Ouch. That stings just a little bit… or a lot.
As parents, we do value gratitude, compassion, and kindness over achievement for our kids (or at least we say that we do). However, the countless hours we spend on homework, extracurricular activities, etc., don’t necessarily support that.
Oh sister, guilty as charged.
We all want our kids to be happy and in no way am I suggesting we are bad parents for desiring that for them.
But the reality of it all is that the very best of our intentions has kind of backfired on us.
Instead of nurturing an attitude of gratitude within our kiddos for what they have, we create little monsters who are easily disappointed when they don’t get their way or they are always wanting more.
That is not at all what we want… but unfortunately, that is what we get when we…
- Give in to our kids’ desires because we think it will make them happy
- Try to keep up with the Jones’
- We “do” for our kids because of our own guilt
- Allow continuous exposure to consumption-driven media
In a recent article by an educational psychologist, Dr. Michele Borba, she references some interesting research that “proves that the happiest and most empathetic children are the ones who feel a sense of appreciation for life—and that’s regardless of their wealth or personal circumstances. Studies also show that because kids feel grateful, they are actually more joyful, determined, optimistic, resilient, less stressed, and even healthier.”
I would like to think I’m doing an OK job in growing grateful, compassionate, and kind human beings.
But as I have been reading on this topic (and watching the world), I think I could do better. I think we can all do better.
Here is a list of ways to nurture gratitude, compassion, and kindness in our kids on purpose.
8 Ways to Nurture Gratitude, Compassion, and Kindness in Your Kids
Live it out in front of your kids
Do more than just talk about these character traits. Look for ways to show gratitude, compassion, and kindness in your family and in your community. Talk about what you are doing and why.
Exercise kindness and gratitude
Create opportunities to show kindness and express gratitude and make it your norm.
Practice vulnerability in front of your kids
Admit when you don’t know the answer to something and involve them in the process of discovering it. Also, when you make a mistake, let them hear you say, “I’m sorry”.
Celebrate differences and Include others
Expand your people group and create meaningful relationships with others who are different from you.
Talk about these traits when you see them in others
Look for these examples and include your kids in the observation of kind acts. Talk about what they’re doing and why they might be doing it. Ask them what they would have done.
Here’s the deal. If you’re going to raise grateful kids, you’re going to have to do so on purpose. Expect your kids to show appreciation and to say, “thank you”.
Expose your kids to others who are less fortunate
Find ways for your family to serve others in a charitable way. Consider finding ongoing service projects you and your family can be a part of regularly.
Set boundaries and limitations
Resist the urge to overindulge your kiddos with too much stuff. According to research, having “too much” actually fuels an overall lack of appreciation.
Teaching and reinforcing an attitude of gratitude, compassion, and kindness with our kids is a tremendous opportunity for us to grow, as well.
One of the most effective ways to create a more grateful, happier world is by training the young humans, we have been entrusted with to be such.
And, oddly enough, today is National Hug Day. Who, in your life, needs a hug today? I can’t think of a better way to say, “I appreciate you” or to demonstrate kindness and compassion.
Believe it or not, hugs have some beneficial health qualities. Check out today’s Facebook post for a few of them.