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Family Matters

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Linda Mintle, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist, author of 16 books, a national expert on family issues and the psychology of food and weight. She's an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, a national speaker, writer, and news contributor.

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Two Easy Ways to Teach Gratitude All Year Long

Now that we have all survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, families need time to reflect on the craziness of this shopping season.  When I read that one family camped out at a store the Monday before Black Friday, I couldn’t help but think, 'Good grief, aren’t they missing the point of the season?' 

The emphasis on material things during the holiday season tends to create kids who want more and more based on what they see on television and in stores. So how does a parent change the focus from materialism to the true meaning of the holidays?

You begin by creating a thankful heart or an attitude of gratitude in a child. This is something you must teach in our culture as media promotes getting rather than giving. Consider the ads you see and hear. Many of them begin with the phrase, “You deserve…” This promulgates an attitude of entitlement. Kids are taught to want more, rather than be content with what they have. Thus, parents have to constantly go against these messages, teaching as scripture admonishes, to be content with much or little. 

Fortunately, the Thanksgiving season can jump-start your quest to teach gratitude. Here is an idea for your family. Make a gratitude box out of an old shoe-box. Decorate the box with the kids and cut a slit in the top. Every day from now until Christmas, have each person in the family write down something he/she is thankful for and put it in the box. At your Christmas celebration, read the notes out loud. After Christmas, you can change the box decorations for each season or holiday and continue the activity once a week or month instead of daily. An activity like this will intentionally foster gratitude.

Another idea is this: When you say your prayers at night, have each person in the family say something that he or she is thankful for that day. Your children may initial choose material things, but will gradually focus on things of eternal value as parents model those responses. 

The idea here is to intentionally foster gratitude in order to teach children the importance of it. In a culture that creates a herd mentality to purchase a deal, a little gratitude for what we have would be a refreshing change.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 4:24 PM

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