You know, people don’t like to be forced to do things…Parents are reminded this every day. Our children actively protest our well-intentioned suggestions, often in their best interest, simply because our suggestions are not their own. We know this, yet we persist. We lecture. We try to teach our kids all that we know and warn them about what might come of this or that decision, but it really doesn’t sink in until the child owns it him or herself. Even knowing this, I shake my head thinking about how I recently tried to take a heavy-handed approach to encouraging my son to feel gratitude in our home. Prior to last week’s trip to the library, I pulled up a blog post about books that teach gratitude. I wrote down titles and call numbers so I could be prepared when we got to the library. As it turned out, we got caught up with so many other titles that we never got around to looking at the ones on my gratitude list. After the fact, my sad attempt to inject stories about gratitude into our reading time reminded me of an Onion story titled “Clear Theme Of Obedient Children Emerging In Father’s Bedtime Stories“. Of course, there is nothing wrong with selecting and reading a children’s book about gratitude. However, I recognized my motive as being a bit “preachy,” so it was all for the best that we didn’t get to that gratitude list.
My wife is great about putting together little gifts for people as acts of thanks and kindness. She created little gift bags for the teachers in children’s church for Thanksgiving. Most recently, she filled some decorated mason jars with treats for my son’s preschool teachers. When we received a thank you note from one of the teachers the following week, our son immediately said, “We need to send her a thank you!” Now, I could have said, “That’s very nice of you, but you usually do not send a thank you note for a thank you note.” Luckily, I didn’t. We stopped what we were doing and went immediately to his play room. Driven to carry out his own idea, made a cute thank you note with stamps and stickers. He came up with two lovely sentences for me to write in the card and he was so excited to bring it in to school. He didn’t need any lectures from me about how we should express our gratitude to others. Nor did he need me to read him a collection of books about “being grateful.” He just felt the joy of thanking others and acted on that impulse. He owned it himself. I’m grateful for that.
Image: Nothing says “thank you” like dinosaur stickers!