My friend, Jeff, just turned five. He has created a nightly tradition called "Six Beautiful Things." Every night before bed, he climbs on his mother's lap and makes a list of six beautiful things that happened to him that day. Jeff used to have trouble falling asleep because his mind dwelled on the hitches of the day. Six Beautiful Things get his mind filled with the positive. The gifts he receives every day.
If your child is less of a talker and more of an artist, a picture can speak gratitude. My daughter keeps a large desk calendar in her room. The squares are large enough that she can draw a picture each night of something wonderful that made that day special. When she looks back over the month, the story of one lucky girl is right there for her to see.
Words, pictures, whatever they want. It's the practice that counts. Each time they sit to center themselves on the blessings of the day, they strengthen the habit of gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal so you can record progress.
The thing I love most about my tall stack of gratitude journals is that they are a permanent record of my life for the last 13 years. One day, I will leave them to my children and they'll be able to read about all the good things in my life. They'll read their own names on every page and know how rich my life was because I was their mother. They'll also be able to read about my life before I was a mother. Those journals tell a happy journey, even in the tough times, because they kept me focused on what I treasured instead of what I regretted.
Our kids can benefit from the same kind of permanent record. When I'm having a sad day, I can flip back and remind myself how much joy I have experienced. My daughter can look back over her monthly calendar and recall specifics about her good times. Now that she's writing on her own, it's time for her own gratitude journal.
Share gratitude with others.
Practicing gratitude cultivates a spirit of plenty. As my grandmother would say, "Count your blessings, name them one by one." Writing it down makes our blessings easier to count, day after day after day. I think the real secret to a grateful life is this last one--sharing our gratitude with others. Talk about what's good in life.
Does your family do that Thanksgiving dinner tradition where you go around the table and say what makes you grateful? We do...some years. My dad always ends up crying. Well, our family tries to keep the Thanksgiving spirit going every day. At the dinner table each night, we play "Rose and Thorn"--each of us shares one good thing and one tough thing about the day. The Roses help us realize what we each value and the Thorns give us a chance to talk it through.