In a world where everything is at our fingertips, and a feeling of privilege and entitlement can come natural – it can be difficult to instill an “attitude of gratitude” in our children. And while exercising manners and being courteous are quite satisfactory, teaching gratitude to young minds can have lifelong positive effects. But learning this outlook takes time and practice; after all it is a mindset and a lifestyle. Thankfully, there are techniques you can establish with your child today to begin cultivating feelings and expressions of gratitude – and what better time to develop an “attitude of gratitude” then the start of this holiday season?
Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness.
In many respects, instilling a sense of gratitude is one of the most important lessons to pass along to our children. “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.” – Harvard Health. Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness; and so by teaching our children to find appreciation in the little things around them, they tend to be less materialistic, more empathetic towards others, more satisfied with life and often lead healthier lives physically and psychologically. When you see the positive, you feel more positive – it only makes sense!
This week we have put together a collection of activities you and your child can both do together. We encourage using these techniques daily as a way to make gratitude a meaningful part of the day.
1. Write in a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude journals are great for both children and adults. Taking time to reflect and report your positive daily experiences can increase your overall happiness. In a 2003 study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, participants who kept gratitude journals for 9 weeks resulted in exercising more regularly, reporting fewer physical complaints, expressing optimism concerning the upcoming week and had higher ratings of joy and happiness.
We have created a simple and fun gratitude journal print-out with both morning and evening prompts your child can use to build a healthy habit of gratitude starting today. Download the FREE printable below.
2. Go on a Hunt!
Make learning fun with a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt! We’ve created the perfect list to find the little things to be thankful for – and it’s perfect for adults to play along too.
3. Serve Others
An easy way to teach gratitude is by exposing our children to different perspectives. By serving those around us, we are reminded to be grateful for what we have, while also learning to be more empathetic. There are plenty of ways to actively serve others. See some ideas below!
4. Turn it into a Conversation
One of the best ways to express gratitude, is by simply talking about it! By carving out a few minutes of your day or week and playing a conversation game, you and your child will exercise feelings of gratitude and also open up dialogue for deeper and more meaningful conversations.
And since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, why not start a Grateful Tree? See our post on how to make your own here.
We hope these activities will help your child to understand and foster feelings of gratefulness into their lives, but its best to remember that leading by example is what makes it stick! If you have a favorite activity or tips on instilling an “attitude of gratitude,” feel free to share in the comments below.
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I overheard these commands in a recent exchange between a young boy and caregiver. The child was having a hard time and for his caregiver, this was unacceptable. He wiped his eyes and became stoic, clearly repressing his emotions.
While I don’t know what caused this child to feel upset, I know that in that moment he was coached to conceal his emotions and silence himself. He was taught that his feelings were invalid and needed to be quelled. He learned that showing emotion is weakness.
“Real men are strong. Real men are apathetic. Real men are tough. Real men are aggressive and show dominance via violence.”
We know all of these things to be untrue. So why do we perpetuate these ideas for our boys?
This is toxic masculinity. These are the dangerous conclusions boys are drawing about themselves and the way they should interact with others.
“Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health.”
In the age of the all important MeToo movement and focus on female empowerment, it’s easy to overlook our boys, and how important it is to nurture their emotional needs in order to create a place for them to thrive in our ever-changing society.
Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health. By teaching them that emotion is weakness, we stifle their emotional intelligence and impact the success of their personal relationships and happiness. They begin to adopt the belief that emotional beings are lesser or inferior, which in turn, distorts the way they view their female counterparts.
I am a mother of boys. I recognize the challenges they face. I’m doing this work for them. And my hope is that in sharing 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy boys, I can impact the young men who will grow up alongside them. Let’s create a safe space for our children to share, to feel, and to be open with one another.
Be Mindful of the Ways You May be Contributing to Toxic Masculinity
Let’s first define toxic masculinity as traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society. Overall, this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.
Being mindful of the ways we contribute to toxic masculinity can be uncomfortable, but reflecting on our upbringing and the old-fashioned ideals we carry around can help curb tendencies to perpetuate it. Some examples of this are:
Feminizing males as a means of insulting them
Shaming males for displaying affection
Asserting the notion that men are superior to women
Toxic masculinity can also be evident in the way we communicate with one another.
Common phrases (and those similar to these) that discourage emotional health:
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Thats a female trait.”
Parents, let him cry. Teach him that crying is human and a healthy way to express sadness, frustration, and anger. Firmly establish the idea that showing emotion is not feminine or weak, but rather a normal form of emotional expression.
Create a Safe Environment for Emotional Expression
Subsequent to the point above, cultivating an emotionally friendly environment in which sharing feelings is not only normal but encouraged, is essential to raising emotionally healthy boys. Never shutdown an emotionally charged conversation. Rather, calmly discuss anger and frustrations and allow kids to express themselves safely.
Teach him to identify his feelings and validate them. The practice of “taking an emotional temperature” is a great one to implement with your child. Describe each feeling (sad, angry, surprised, embarrassed, etc) and have him choose the one that best describes his current “emotional temperature.” Then contemplate what could be triggering these feelings and devise healthy practices for working through them.
Monitor the Media Your Child Consumes
Violence is a major theme in most of the media young boys consume including television, movies, and video games. Try to lead them towards nonviolent shows and games. Teach them that conflict does not have to be resolved with aggression or violence.
Additionally, exposure to movies or books with female leads or heroes is a good way to bridge the gender gap.
Model Emotionally Healthy Behaviors
The American Psychological Association warns that “traditional masculinity ideology” is associated with negative effects on mental and physical health. Men who adhere to traditionally masculine cultural norms, experience increased risk of psychological problems such as depression, stress, body image issues, substance abuse, and poor social functioning.
To eliminate the negative effects toxic masculinity plays on mental and physical health, model emotional responsibility and lead by example.
When a car cuts you off in traffic, try to refrain from aggressive reactions such as tailgating, inappropriate gestures, name-calling, etc. Take a deep breath and assess why this action is affecting you in a such a way. Is it something going on at work? An underlying anger? By practicing emotional responsibility in front of our children, it becomes a natural way of reaction for them as well.
Encourage Them to Set Healthy Boundaries
Emotional health requires boundaries and does not include powerless or pushover behavior. Teach assertiveness, strength, and confidence. Remember – we want kids to condemn disrespectful behavior and to stick up for others. We need them to show courage in the face of injustice.
Encourage him to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards him, and how to respond when someone passes those limits.
To teach healthy boundaries, ask your kids to play what-if scenarios. Ask them what they would say in certain situations and listen to their responses. Then, offer them several phrases they can use to self-advocate, and remind them to use their words and that violence is never the answer.
Like most, the second the fall crisp air begins to roll through, I go gung-ho and break out all the Halloween decor. And since having kids, it has only gotten more extreme as we add more Halloween projects and crafts into the festive tradition.
Not only is crafting for Halloween a great way to deck the house with meaningful displays and get you into the spooky spirit, it’s also an easy and fun way to spend some time together and make memories with your littles.
With Halloween right around the corner, we’ve put together 13 days of creepy Halloween crafts that will make your day a bit more SPOOKTACULAR!
Click on the projects below to take you to the 13 creepy Halloween craft projects!