I recently read that the average amount that parents spend on holiday gifts for their children is $330 per year.
I’ve been sitting on this thought for a couple days now marinating on this statistic.
I remember in my house, growing up, Christmas was such an exciting day. It was a magical morning, that’s for sure. We would go to sleep the night before, and I would wake up the next morning SUPER early to tip toe out and see the presents we got. It was crazy some years. My parents worked really hard to build a huge pile of presents. I’m sure my parents were either at the average or above the average.
Something I want to share: I was terribly ungrateful.
The gift was always the wrong color, wrong brand, wrong size, or just out of date. I was a brat. I would say “thank you” and then in the same breath complain that it wasn’t right.
My whole life I was missing the message, because I never felt what gratitude was. The true feeling of gratitude. Gratitude was taught to me as nothing but a call and response. It wasn’t until I was an adult, teaching preschool children and using the same call and response technique that was passed down to me, that I began to understand the difference.
I would call: “What do you say?”
They would respond: “Thank you.”
I started to notice that, for some children, when I would experiment and not cue the call, the response wouldn’t happen. For other children, the response came without the call - they just got it. What I didn’t understand was what was different. What was the difference between the children who said it and those who didn’t?
One day in a yoga class, the yoga teacher prompted us to set the intention of gratitude. She guided us through a meditation of gratitude before starting the practice. AHA! I finally realized what was missing - it was the feeling of gratitude. The children who waited for the cue were polite, using their manners. The children who said “thank you” when the cue wasn’t present felt gratitude and embodied it. This resonated so hard with me. While I was getting them to say the words, I was passing down the same missing of the message I experienced.
I wanted that to change.
I realized that first, I needed to change. I needed to start feeling authentic gratitude, and more importantly I needed to start showing authentic gratitude. Each day we started a gratitude practice as a class. Using a similar meditation, we would start the morning in a similar way: during circle time, we would share a moment of gratitude to each other for the big moments and the tiny moments.
It was magic. The entire environment changed.
Starting a gratitude practice brought an entirely new level of awareness to all the amazing things around us - each and every day. Being grateful is so much more than polite manners and eight letters spoken. Being grateful is the practice of a feeling of gratitude. I was showing it, they were feeling it, and the result was less resentment and conflict - a more peaceful classroom.
Just this week I was meeting with a client who was having a similar problem with her two children. They had just gone on a vacation with their grandparents, and she came back to me sharing that they were so ungrateful. She didn’t know how to make them show their gratitude - she was a believer of the prompts, too. After talking about things, we identified that what was missing was the feeling of gratitude.
This re-frame was a powerful one for the mom of 2. She was focused on the items, the number, the size. Starting the session she said, “Maybe if I just don’t get them as MANY gifts, they will feel grateful for the ones that have.” I countered, “Or they will complain that they didn’t get enough.” Through our hour together we shifted from the external forcing of the manners to the internal feeling of gratitude.
“I feel so refreshed and ready to face the challenges of relationships another day!!! XO Thank you for being a superhero to me!!!”