As Thanksgiving Day nears, I have been contemplating this short season of thankfulness. The irony does not escape me that, first, we all gather together as a family to be thankful for God’s blessings. Then, next, we enter a month-long season of greed, where kids make wish-lists so Santa can fulfill their material desires.
My kids are as bad as anyone else’s. They are already salivating over the toy catalogues. I’m not even sure exactly how we get on these mailing lists, because I don’t think I’ve ever ordered anything from these particular toy catalogues. Yet, without fail, they start hitting our mail box some time in October.
A month ago, my kids didn’t even know many of these toys existed, and they seemed happily content without these toys. Now they are obsessed and can’t imagine a life beyond December 26th without these toys.
Apparently I need to be better at intercepting these evil catalogues before they enter the house!
Fortunately, I know of many, many families—and I’m sure you are one of them, since you are a home educator and are reading this excellent blog—who believe that instilling the virtue of gratitude in children is a year-long endeavor, not just something we do at Thanksgiving time.
In fact, if you’re like me and a lot of my friends, passing on your values is one of the reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.
In my efforts to instill gratitude in my children, I have been encouraged by various Christian authors (Ann Voskamp and Nancy Leigh DeMoss come to mind) who have communicated eloquently about the need for gratitude in the Christian life. I have also heard and/or read some compelling things from secular authors on the topic of gratitude.
In fact, recently I was watching a TED Talk on Netflix. This is not something that I will ever admit at parties—because it’s a nerdy thing to do—but I really like watching TED Talks. Everyone else binge watches sitcoms and thrillers, but I could probably binge watch TED Talks.
This particular one was delivered by a psychologist named Shawn Achor and is, apparently, one of the most-viewed TED Talks. So maybe you’ve heard of it.
Achor notes that people think they need to be more successful to be happier, but our brains actually work in the opposite order. “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present … your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed.” And what’s more: “In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain, allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.”
According to Achor, one way to rewire a brain to think positively—focusing on the good, or in other words, being thankful—is to journal about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours and do this for 21 days in a row.
No one’s life is all good or all bad. So, having a thankful spirit or an ungrateful one will largely depend on what we choose to focus on.
I like the idea of helping my kids uncover the good things in their day, even if it may not have been the best day. I want them to have a spirit of gratefulness and a positive perspective. As a family, we will be journaling our gratitude over the coming weeks.
So, here’s what I just added to my to-do list for tomorrow:
1) Go buy Gratefulness Journals for the kids at the craft store. (Gotta love the Michael’s dollar bin.)
2) Go on a search and destroy mission to unearth those toy catalogues and get them out of the house!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image by Amy Koons.