LaDonna Greiner on 2 Fresh Ways to Teach the Value of Gratitude
Throughout the month of November, we’re partnering with speaker and gratitude guru, LaDonna Greiner of 21 Reasons to Say Thank You and LG Consulting, to delve into what it really means to live with a sense of gratitude at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.
Maybe it’s a familiar scene.
You’re about to stuff the first bite of a freshly baked roll into your mouth after smelling scents from the kitchen all day. You break it apart, perfect steam wafting.
“WAIT. STOP. What is everyone thankful for?! We can’t eat until we’ve said that!”
You freeze, mid-bite, narrowing your eyes slightly at the enthusiastic family member. They mean well, you remind yourself, dropping the roll to the plate.
Each family member takes a turn, some nodding in appreciation of the sentimental moment, others anxiously tapping their fingers on the table trying to think of something to say that seems semi-meaningful.
The scene above is not exactly something you’d put on a greeting card, but for some, it is just as much a tradition on Thanksgiving as turkey and pie. While being grateful is certainly wonderful, LaDonna Greiner notes that the “everyone-say-one-thing-you’re-thankful-for” part of Thanksgiving may not be the most effective way to go about training kids in the family to live with gratitude throughout the year. Here are a couple of her recommendations:
Bring gratitude into Thanksgiving festivities in a more natural, spontaneous way.
Perhaps a grandparent or parent could mention to some of the adults beforehand that there will be a time for the family to talk about what good things have happened throughout the year. This will give them time to gather their thoughts before the meal begins. A few minutes after everyone has started eating, the grandparent could simply begin to mention some of the good things they have observed over the past year:
“I was so proud of Abby for getting all A’s and B’s on her report card this year, and wow! Drake really worked hard to become first viola over the past few months in orchestra.”
Perhaps thoughts on a family vacation or a funny memory from the summer could spark additional memories about the good things that have occurred. The adults can share in turn if they desire to do so, and maybe upon hearing all of the stories, some of the kids will want to chime in, too, about things they have liked throughout the year.
LaDonna mentions that this more natural, spontaneous way of giving thanks creates a low-pressure environment that still teaches the value of gratitude. The goal is not necessarily for every person to say something, but simply to focus each person’s thoughts on gratefulness. Even if a child or family member prefers to stay quiet, they are most likely still thinking of good things, which is still incredibly meaningful. When put on the spot to say something, it can be easy just to say the first thing that comes to mind, without truly thinking it through.
Ask creative questions
Throughout Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season, one additional way to cultivate a practice of gratitude is to ask the kids in your life a different question than the typical, “What are you thankful for?” This question lends itself to abstract things such as “family” or “beauty”, which are good, but tend to stop the train of thought.
Reframing the question to, “What have you liked about this year?” still explores the avenues of thankfulness, but in more concrete terms. Perhaps a child liked being on their soccer team or a drawing the made in art class, for example. It trains them to be thankful for specific things that are rooted in their day-to-day lives, which helps to create a habit of gratitude.
How do you teach the kids in your life the value of thankfulness?
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