Living in Gratitude

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Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

In a Nutshell: Get in the Thanksgiving spirit by expressing gratitude to your family…every day!

Next week, many dinner tables around the country will feature expressions of thanks and gratitude.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to appreciate what we have and take time to remember blessings we may have overlooked.  Most of the good feelings around the holiday don’t come from the Thanksgiving feast (though a nice big slice of pecan pie smothered in real cream doesn’t hurt), but from the good feelings that come when we approach life with a grateful attitude.

Do you express gratitude to your family?  Do they feel appreciated for what they do right?  In most families, children can do a hundred good and appropriate things–and be completely unrecognized. Their mistakes, shortcomings, and character problems get all the attention.  It’s the same for spouses!  My husband can do the dishes, put the kids in bed, and be a sweetie all day, and I don’t mention any of that.  Instead, I may get on his case for picking up the boys late from basketball or forgetting to pay a bill.  It is all backwards, and our families suffer because of it.

In order to create an effective family environment, experts suggest having a 5 to 1 positive to negative ratio.  That means for every “You forgot to take out the trash,” there are five positive interactions to balance it off.  (*See more about this “magic” ratio here.)  For some parents, the idea of praising their child so often or expressing affection so commonly doesn’t come naturally and can seemed canned or fake.  A great way to keep up the positive interactions is to focus on simply living in gratitude.  Train yourself to not take your family for granted and to take every opportunity to express your thanks.  Even if your spouse always goes to work, take a minute to thank them for getting up so early to provide a living.  If your son carries over his dish from dinner, tell him that you are glad he’s such a responsible kid.  When your daughter gets her P.J’s on the first time you ask, thank her for being so obedient. Thank them for playing nice, for giving you a hug, for forgiving each other.  Thank them for sitting quietly, for telling the truth, and for making you so happy when they smile.

Take it on as an experiment.  For one day, try to only express gratitude. Ignore any misbehavior short of burning down the house and pack up your preachy parent lessons.  Put on your rose-colored glasses and notice anything good anyone does.  Express your gratitude in a quick, simple way.  Then, sit back and watch the magic.   You might see less misbehavior or more good deeds, or maybe your children will express gratitude for all that you do (now, wouldn’t that be nice!).  You may also start to feel a bit of the Thanksgiving glow at your house…even without the turkey.  And for that, your family will truly give thanks.