Gratitude leads to compassion, and kids need more compassion in their lives. When we look at things like bullying, cyberbullying, and hatred, it all boils down to compassion. Kids who lack compassion for others are more likely to hurt others (physically or emotionally). Kids who have compassion for others are more likely to help others and stand up to negative behaviors.
Compassion begins at home. Every kissed boo-boo, every hug during the heat of frustration, and every moment of authentic listening plants the seeds of compassion in our children.
Stress affects gratitude:
According to the Pottery Barn catalog, the holiday season is full of smiling faces, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and family time by the fire. That sounds nice, doesn't it?
The truth is that the holiday season can be stressful for families, especially for young kids. Frequent parties, delayed bedtimes, and singing on command in front of large audiences (not to mention the torturous anticipation of it all) can result in stress for kids. And it's hard to practice gratitude and compassion when you feel like you might melt down at any moment.
While slowing down to talk about gratitude during the holidays is a good idea and should be a top priority, it can't be the only time kids work on it.
Crash courses for kids rarely work:
Kids are constantly learning and growing, and they are bombarded with interesting information and constant input at school. They have a lot to think about.
Kids need to time to hear, process, and practice the things they learn. While reminders about gratitude before opening gifts might help in the moment, those reminders are likely to be forgotten by the next day. Gratitude is best practiced on a daily basis, with positive input, in a calm and caring environment.
Image via Flickr/Leticia Bertin