I went to a momma-playdate this morning. The kids watched a movie and the mommas, we made art. It was brilliant fun, in a very soothing sort of way. The topic we were focusing on was gratitude.
Before we actually got around to painting, a couple of friends were telling me about how they worry that their children, with all their instruments of distraction and ideas of instant gratification, might not understand true gratitude and contentment. They talked about how maybe depriving kids of material wants would better help in teaching them to count their blessings. This stuck in my head and it was something I wanted more time and space to think about, but I’ve had a pretty busy afternoon. We got home around 6, and now I finally have some time.
I’d like for my kids to have what Z and I can afford, whether they include international holidays, the latest gadgets and so on, without thinking that this ‘life of privilege’ might spoil them for any bumps or potholes further down along the road. I think that concept of gratitude, or shukr is among the hardest one teach children. I’d like to think that reminding my kids that for every good thing we have in our lives, we say thank you (and we say it all the time) to both the person, and to God, is enough.
Equally effective, in my mind, is letting them see the harsh realities of the world. I don’t want to protect them from the fact that there are people in dire situations out there in the world. I think gratitude breeds generosity (as well as contentment) so I want them to see it, be grateful for what they have and share whatever they can with those less fortunate than them – whether what they share is their time or their money, or even dua. Yes, dua, or a little prayer. I’m trying to teach them that there’s never ‘nothing you can do’, because there’s always dua.
That said, we don’t buy the kids everything they ask for (or I want to!). We try to implement the one in, one out policy. That they may get a new toy by either working for it, or by letting go of something they already own. Wrap it up nice, and give it to someone who could use it. I hope these little things are enough but who really knows? I’ve seen children from the same family with completely different ideas on gratitude, generosity and contentment so really at this point, I feel like all we can do it try our best to get them into the habit of thinking about it regularly. Oh and of course, do it ourselves, on a daily basis – in a way that they’ll pick up on subconsciously as well as ways that are obvious to them.
We used to do this whole bedtime ritual where we’d talk to the kids about the good and bad parts of their day, and then to list everything they’re grateful for. I loved that they were going to bed with the gratitude list as the last thought in their heads – maybe it helps them sleep better, wake up happier? Because you know, finding the joy / celebrating the ordinary, the everyday? Really when you think of it, gratitude is the motherlode of positivity. Amazing. Anyway, so at some point, our days got longer and busier and bedtimes got shorter and shorter, until we just stopped. It would be a good idea to start that up again.
Or maybe a family gratitude journal? A weekly one? Z and I like this idea, and we’re still talking about it, considering that the kids are still pretty young.
How do you nurture these concepts in your children? Let’s hear it :)