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The Importance of Gratitude

Gratitude is essential for becoming a good person-and a good parent. According to the Harvard Medical School the definition of grateful is “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … "

Gratitude keeps us grounded. But in this crazy, fast-paced world that we live in, why should we bother? Because scientific research studies on gratitude have demonstrated that being grateful leads to becoming happier, healthier, more resilient, and more empathetic. Being grateful causes decreased cortisol production (which means less stress!), decreased depression, increased self-esteem, improved decision making and increased productivity. Gratitude strengthens relationships.

It can be challenging to raise grateful kids in our society. Let's face it, we live in a world of someone else shopping for us and delivering our groceries to our home, being able to order a driver at a moment's notice, and next day delivery on online shopping. Commodities are available almost instantaneously. And a lot of those things are convenient and wonderful. But not all things can happen when we want them to.

The "I want this when I want it and I want it now" mentality has

lead to a sense of entitlement and quite frankly to a lack of boundaries. It's no coincidence that cyber bullying and shaming are rampant in our society. The "I want this when I want it and I want it now" has also lead to "I'll say what I want, when I want, whether or not it is mean or hateful, simply because I want to say it".

I truly believe that gratitude is the key to changing that mentality. Why? Because it is incredibly difficult to be grateful and entitled at the same time. The very definitions of those two words conflict each other.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of entitled is "Believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment". The definition of grateful is "Feeling or showing an appreciation for something done or received". Can anyone show appreciation for something they believe that they are entitled to? I don't think so.

You can change your entire outlook on life by focusing on gratitude.

Let me give you an example. When I was a teenager, my parents volunteered my entire family for the overnight shift at a local homeless shelter at least once a year. As a moody teenager, I did not like the idea of crawling out of my warm bed at midnight to do what I considered to be work (hello entitlement!) and had a pretty bad attitude about it.

One year, one of the men staying at the shelter woke up early and wandered into the breakfast area, looking for food. He was dressed in a work jumpsuit, and my entitled mind thought "he has a job, why is he here?". He must have seen the expression on my face, because he looked at me and said "I have to be at work by 5:00 am. I usually live in my car, because I give the majority of my paychecks to my sick mom who takes care of my sister. There isn't enough room for all of us in her home. Thanks for the eggs".

My heart broke into a million pieces in that one moment, and I simultaneously felt ashamed and grateful.

When we focus on what we don't have, we miss out on all of the things that we do have. My teenage self balked at the idea of leaving my bed for one night while this man had not slept in a warm bed for months. I have not lost sight of that, and am grateful every day for my home and my comfortable bed.

Even if you are struggling with all of the challenges that life has thrown your way, you can find something to be grateful for. Do you have the gift of sight? The gift of hearing? Do you have a roof over your head? Does your refrigerator have food in it? Do your children have underwear (because I take care of plenty of children who don't). Do you have at least one person who loves you unconditionally?

I promise you, if you focus on the things that you do have that you can be grateful for, your life will be happier and more fulfilled. Focusing on what you don't have will only bring hurt and despair into your life.

Here are some tips to help you and your children live a life of gratitude:

-Each day, ask everyone in the family to share something that they are grateful for. A great time to do this is at the dinner table. If your kids are too young to understand gratitude, that's okay! When it is their turn, encourage them to say something that made them happy.

-Each day, tell your children that you are thankful for them, and then tell them a specific reason you think they are special.

-If your child complains about something, acknowledge their complaint but also remind them of the positive things that they may be overlooking.

-Have your children earn some of their possessions. They can save up money from doing chores and buy it themselves.

-When you are out and about pay attention to those less fortunate than you. Make it a point to acknowledge those people to your children-they are human too and are doing their best to rise above their struggles.

-Above all, model gratitude for your children. If someone holds a door open for you, look that person in the eyes and say "thank you". If you feel grateful, please verbalize that gratitude! If someone shows you kindness, please let them know that you appreciate them.