How to Show Gratitude for Our Children
written by Juli Gibbons
“I don’t appreciate your tone of voice,” my six year old says to me, after I’ve just told her for the fifth time to pick up her Legos.
“I’m proud of you for speaking your mind,” I say, even though I’m frustrated. Why didn’t I tell her not to be rude or not to talk back? I am proud of her for checking my tone when I lose my temper. Does she still need to pick up her toys? You betcha!
We as parents often forget we’re raising tiny adults. They need to feel respected and appreciated just as much as we do. It’s difficult to show our gratitude for our children when they’re persistently ignoring our requests or pushing boundaries incessantly. How can we express gratitude for our children even when they’re pushing our buttons?
S- Stop. Press the pause button on the situation.
T- Take a few deep breaths. (You can even have your child/children do this with you).
O- Observe. What are the sensations in your body right now? What are you feeling emotionally? What thoughts or assumptions are you making about the situation right now?
P- Proceed. Continue what you were doing with thoughtfulness and intention.
Taking time to breathe and think about the situation helps us to gain perspective. That child that’s whining constantly might have a headache and is unable to express her discomfort. The child who isn’t listening might not have slept well last night. But extending that degree of grace to our children can seem impossible when we aren’t extending those same courtesies to ourselves.
My child is acting clingy = My child is being affectionate.
My child won’t sit still = My child is energetic and playful.
My child will not stop whining = My child is communicating their needs.
My son was mostly non-verbal until after he turned three. These days he’s loud and full of energy. In those moments when he is shouting, I remind myself of just last year when I sat with him for hours going over flashcards, trying to coax him to talk to us. I’m so grateful he’s made strides, and I make sure to let him know that I love how well he expresses himself.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE LITTLE THINGS.
“Thank you for responding the first time I called your name.”
“I really like how you shared your toys with your brother.”
“You are so creative! Your orange sky looks like a sunset.”
“You really tried your best! I’m proud of you.”
“Even though you didn’t win, you still had fun and you learned how to do better next time.”
Encouraging positive self-talk is so important. Just like we reframe when we’re looking at a situation negatively, we can reframe things for our children through acknowledging the positives. Modeling a grateful mindset can help them to learn to look for the good in life. That doesn’t mean ignoring failures, but learning from them. Ask your child about a situation in which they felt they failed. Encourage them to talk about what lessons they feel they learned from it. Get in a habit of discussing your “best failures” and talking about all the good things we learned from them.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY SORRY.
“I think we both could’ve done better just then. Let’s try again, okay?”
“I’m sorry I raised my voice. I’m very tired tonight, but I’ll do better to speak softly.”
“I could’ve been much more patient with you. I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t listen to your question because I was distracted. I’m sorry I made you feel unheard. Would you please ask it again?”
Apologizing to our children when we make mistakes teaches them that they matter. It lets them know that their feelings are valid. It shows them that adults can make mistakes too. Apologizing when we are tired, impatient, or upset helps to foster an environment of open communication. And sharing our own emotions helps them learn about us.
“Mom is tired and grumpy today. What are some things that help you feel better when you’re feeling grumpy?”
When we allow our children to make decisions and have an influence on us we’re showing them in our actions and our behavior that we’re grateful for them.
LEARN YOUR CHILD’S “LOVE LANGUAGE.”
Learning what makes our children feel loved is a good way to express our gratitude. My daughter’s love language is quality time, so expressing gratitude for her might be working on a puzzle together while she tells me a story. My son’s love language is physical touch, so my expression of gratitude for him might be a few minutes of cuddling when he first wakes up, or right before bed. Throughout the day, I’ll give him a high five or a hug, and I make sure to give my daughter a few minutes of personal attention between activities.
Parenting doesn’t come with instructions. We try our best every day. You are doing your best. Yes, even you with the messy bun and yesterday’s pajamas. Even you, running out the door to make it to work on time for that big meeting, leaving before the kids are awake. You’re doing a good job, and I’m proud of you.