Monday, July 25, 2011

The Gratitude Police

Have you noticed that when one child goes on a bad attitude streak, the rest fall into line behind?

I had been dealing with a stretch of negativity from one child that infected the rest like head lice at a preschool.  I was sick of the whining, complaining, deep sighs and eye rolling.  I am always sick of the eye rolling.  I was not willing to let this fester into something stinky, rotten.  I needed lay down the law. 

So I have become...The Gratitude Police

Every time I hear negativity coming from any of my children, I have been requiring them to tell me three things they are grateful for and why.  If the negativity continues, they have to come up with more.  They can't recycle answers, either.

With a deep sigh and a dramatic shoulder slouch, my first unenthusiastic participant came up with a toilet, toilet paper and underwear.  I agreed that those were definitely things to be grateful for.  Within an hour or two the kids had run through all their possible potty-type answers and had to get more creative, but still didn't branch out far.  They were grateful for TV, ice cream, legos, etc.

It took a couple of days (we have been at this for nearly a week) before I think they really had to dig deep.  They began to acknowledge why they were grateful for beds to sleep in, trees to climb, car seats, the library, etc.

And, the crazy thing is, I think this is working.  The kids have been pulled out of their cynical, entitlement funk and thought about how fortunate they are.  Or maybe they are just sick of the Gratitude Police.  Either way, I'm happy.  I'm hoping this change of attitude has some staying power.

A very wise mom friend of mine summed my intent up better than I could.  She said that her children don't have to be grateful to her for everything they have, but they do have to be grateful to God.  And isn't that what we are striving for as parents? 

We want to raise children to think beyond themselves and their own wants.  I want them to acknowledge all the blessings they have, both the obvious and less obvious.  I want them to remember that they have incredible gifts from God all around them, not because they are entitled, but because they are God's beloved children.  I pray that they move beyond thinking about what they have and want from God and see that we are all God's beloved children and that they are able to share their gifts accordingly.

After a few days of seeing the change in my kids attitude I came to the horrible realization that I had been a bit crabby and feeling sorry for myself with laundry piled up, floors needing a good scrubbing, and a child with an unfortunate case of diarrhea.  So I tried it myself.  Who knew it would work on someone who's age is in the double digits? 

Perhaps I'll need to deputize my kids into the Gratitude Police patrol.

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