Mindfulness and gratitude. I’ve either got your attention or you are currently rolling your eyes and are about to scroll down the page to get away from it!
Practising mindfulness, being in the moment, and gratitude, focussing on the positive things happening to you, are the current ‘fads’. I use the word ‘fad’ because I can’t think of another word to describe the current interest in practising these as an aid to mental wellness. Using ‘fad’ is not to denigrate or diminish mindfulness or gratitude.
There is huge value in focussing on what is happening right now and stilling your mind to focus and be present. Being mindful allows us to enjoy the moment, not miss the moment because we are not really present.
Gratitude though, is a slightly harder one to master. If I asked you on the spot, tell me one thing you are grateful for, I am pretty sure you would um and ah whilst you searched your brain for something, anything you were grateful for. How do I know that feeling grateful can be difficult? Whilst I was on sabbatical, I thought it would be a great opportunity to actively practise mindfulness and gratitude. I had to write down three things each day that I was grateful for. Day 1 – easy, had five things. Day 2 – three things. Day 3 – struggling to not sound twee. Day 4 – did it count that I was grateful that I had chocolate biscuits in the pantry to have with my coffee?
So if adults struggle with finding things to be grateful for, then what about children? I have to say that children just do not have the maturity or life experience to be grateful about anything. I remember driving home after taking my then four year old to the park and McDonalds. I said, wasn’t that a fun afternoon? Her reply? Í would rather have gone to Burger King. Ungrateful little madam!
But do children actually appreciate what we do for them? Should they feel grateful because we took them to McDonalds? Should we really be checking with them that they appreciate all we do for them? Is it reasonable for them to feel gratitude when we have done something nice?
If we are expecting our children to be grateful, then I suggest that perhaps we need to look within to our motives. Do we want to feel smug because we are a super parent? Or do we want to enjoy being with our children for no other reason than because we love them?
Children are not mature enough to even know what a feeling of gratitude is. Feeling grateful comes with age and experience. Children are egocentric, it doesn’t even occur to them to take your feelings into consideration. They have no idea that you want them to feel grateful and even if you told them to be grateful, they really don’t have any concept of what being grateful feels like.
So next time your child seems ungrateful, just remember, they have no filter. I feel sure that my four year old had seen Burger King advertised and wanted to try it. She wasn’t being ungrateful, she was just being honest.
The wonderful thing is, that when your children are young adults, they will tell you one day that they feel lucky that they had such a great time as a child. And that gratitude is worth waiting for!