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Gifts of Gratitude

When our children are young, it is very natural for them to be ruled by their ego. In fact, it’s part of the developmental process. Their worlds are all about them and “I” always comes first, hence the relentless cries of, “No, that’s mine!” “I don’t want to play with Ryan,” “I don’t want to share with Vicky,” “Mateo is sitting in my spot,” or “It’s not what I want.”

Sound familiar? Well, the relentless nature of children’s ego contributes to why so many of us identify parenthood as a stressful experience, but this doesn’t have to be the reality of parenthood. In fact, it is possible to lead with confidence, calm and control and create a more dynamic and positive parenting and family experience.

Here is a little something I do to help offset the natural drive of the ego and encourage an awareness that goes beyond the self—my family’s nightly Gratitude Practice.

I share this because it’s a simple way for each of us to participate in a family experience that encourages sharing, taking stock of the day and looking beyond stress and challenges. It creates awareness of the good things in our life and gives us an opportunity to give thanks and appreciation for who and what’s around us.

This practice is simple, easy and something everyone can do. My two children (3 and 5 years old) share a room, and while in bed before we turn the lights off, we take turns highlighting something we’re grateful for from the day. Either my husband or I go first (to positively model the practice), followed by the kids, and we end with the other parent. We try to make sure we stick to highlighting something from that particular day and not something from the past or future. This is purposeful so that we concentrate on the present and really appreciate each day as it presents itself.

The true beauty in this practice has been how my children, at such a young age, have really grown and developed their comprehension of gratitude. Not too long ago, their highlights of gratitude were materialistic things. Now they really contemplate the thing they want to mention, ask insightful questions and feel proud about recognizing and identifying different people, relationships and events to be grateful for. There are even times when they remember before we do.

By no means is this a direct route to having our kids volunteer to share and do acts of endless kindness or behave selflessly, but it is most definitely a concrete way of building their awareness of the world that goes beyond the Ego/Me/Mine. It’s an opportunity to create a reference point for our children on how to behave with love, kindness and respect.

As I reflect on my experiences, I want parents to know what I’ve learned: that our attitudes of parenthood are subjective, and because of that, our attitudes can be altered and shifted. The key to true success in this journey of ours is bringing awareness and consciousness to the very world we’ve created for ourselves.

Our families thrive when we begin to think, feel and act like the leaders we are meant to be in our homes. “Parenting with Leadership” is my approach to redefine leadership to go beyond the workplace/career world to the world of our family by addressing our perspectives, attitudes and approaches as we parent.

I recently came across this quote, “Your child will follow your example, not your advice.” It resonated with me on so many levels and I felt like it was so perfect for this piece because this gratitude practice is just one example of how we lead by example in some of our most private, simple and discreet moments.

Sandra Martin is a life and leadership coach (Self Balanced Solutions) and “mompreneur.” Her latest venture is Cozy Joey by Mulier™, the ultimate 3-in-1 mommy coat.

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