Episode summary:


Susan shares simple practices that parents can use to help children naturally develop a sense of gratitude and appreciation in their daily lives. An uplifting episode with lots of ideas for cultivating an attitude of gratitude!


Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.​​​​​​​ www.susanstiffelman.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:


  • Practices for cultivating an attitude of gratitude in your family

  • How to help children become noticers of goodness

  • Modeling appreciations for your children

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Read the entire episode!
Transcript here:

Speaker 1: (00:00)

Hello, welcome back to another episode of the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m your host, Susan Stiffelman. I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting with Presence and I love that you’re here. Thanks for joining me today. I’m going to be talking about gratitude. It’s a timely topic, but it’s always a timely topic, whether it’s Thanksgiving or anytime of the year, but first a few words from our sponsor, me. This podcast is my way of offering support to parents all over the world, but I also want to let you know about other ways that you can take advantage of the classes and programs that I offer. Please visit Susanstiffelman.com because there you can sign up for a free newsletter. It has lots of tips, lots of articles and inspiration and that’s where I communicate all the upcoming classes and events that I teach. 


Speaker 1: (00:56)

There’s a lot of them already available on everything from the Birds and Bees in the Online World to Raising Self-reliant Kids in the digital age with Dr. Dan Siegel, managing meltdowns with Janet Landsbury, helping kids with anxiety with Maggie Dent, chores with Patty Wipfler, Parenting with the Brain In Mind with Dr. Michael Gurian and there’s so many wonderful people out there. I have loved collaborating with them and offering these deep dives into various parenting topics. So please visit the website, Susanstiffelman.com to find out more about those classes. We also have a monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program and you can try it for just a dollar by using coupon code Podcast19 at Susanstiffelman.com/membership. I work with parents personally twice a month answering questions, roleplaying coaching, and we have a lot of fun, so if you’d like more support, please check that out. Now let’s get started. 


Speaker 1: (01:55)

Let’s talk about gratitude and I know that we all believe that instilling in our children a sense of appreciation and gratitude is a very positive thing. Something that will serve them in present time as well as when they get older. But it, there’s more to it than just holding hands around the Thanksgiving table and saying a blessing. It’s really something that we need to live in front of our children if we want them to absorb it at the deepest level. And that’s true with so many of the qualities we want to instill in our kids, that they absorb the greatest and most permanent lessons by watching how we interact with the world, how we conduct ourselves. So I love Thanksgiving. I love that it’s the one holiday where gifts aren’t expected and where we turn our focus to celebrating what we have been given. And it’s a chance for us to kind of make a decision or set an intention to living that way more often. 


Speaker 1: (02:54)

And of course we all get frustrated. We’re just human. We don’t appreciate every bit of sunshine or every little giggle that our children, uh, share with us. But I think the effort comes from choosing and deciding that we want to do more of that in front of our kids. And even in our own solitude when we turn within to pay attention and magnify the things that we’ve been given. I have an exercise I love to do where I just close my eyes and you could follow along with me right now if you’d like, but don’t close your eyes if you’re driving. But I just kind of turn my attention to my eyes and I give thanks to the way that they see the, the way that they process the world, that they translate the impressions that hit the rods and cones and helped me make meaning of the world and see the world with so much beauty and color and light. 


Speaker 1: (03:54)

And then I might turn my attention to my stomach and thank it for all the work it does to digest the food that I’ve been so blessed to have and or my ears for doing such a beautiful job of conducting sound and allowing me to hear the voices of those I love. And you can do that exercise every day. You can certainly teach it to your children and it’s a way to help them develop the habit of noticing what’s going well in a world where so often we pay extra close attention to the things that are going wrong. Another thing that helps us raise children with gratitude is to allow them to see us conducting ourselves with the people who serve us or help us like the waiter. How do your children see you interacting with the person who delivers your food? What? What did they see you doing when the plumber leaves the house? 


Speaker 1: (04:47)

You know, after making your pair, when we can earnestly and sincerely pay attention to the person who’s just set a plate down in front of us and feel inside so that we’re authentic, that appreciation for the work that they’ve done, the effort that they’ve made, the job that they do and say, thank you for, for the food. I can’t wait to enjoy it. Or when the plumber’s leaving the house, you know, you’re the champ today. We’re so glad that we can take a shower without standing in, you know, four inches of water. Then our children see us not only giving kind of lip service to the idea of giving thanks, but what does it look like and sound like specifically. And of course it’s also very helpful to let your kids know that you appreciate them. Be specific again with how they’ve made a difference for you. 


Speaker 1: (05:35)

So you might say, thanks so much for playing with the baby. While I was talking with aunt Cathy on the phone, it was really great to be able to give her all of my attention for a few minutes and I know that she really appreciated it too. So thank you honey. Knowing how it feels to be appreciated helps children develop that habit and want to share it with, speaking of which Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly hunt who have written wonderful books, getting the love you want, I think is their most famous. Talk about a ratio of five to one when it comes to delivering appreciations to those we love. So for every one negative remark or criticism or comment, you want to think about offering five that would allow that person to feel appreciated, seen, and valued. 


Speaker 1: (06:24)

Another thing that can help kids develop the habit of appreciation is to just pause and stop in your day and notice how beautiful the clouds look or point out a hummingbird or the way the sun is, you know, twinkling on the water. Anytime that we illustrate in living color in front of our children what it looks like to notice the beauty around us, the good things around us, they start to internalize that. I remember when my son was little because we did this all the time, he would often point things out like, Oh mommy, look at the flower or look at that pretty bird or look at how the clouds are moving in the sky like big puffy bits of cotton and I would always thank him and just thanks honey for for reminding me of how beautiful the world is. We can even go further when we’re offering thanks to someone perhaps who’s made a meal instead of just, thank you so much. 


Speaker 1: (07:23)

The stew is delicious. You could consider saying something like, thank you for making this stew. Gosh, I know that took a lot of chopping and testing the flavors. You had so many vegetables in there. I just felt really nourished. It was really yummy. So those are ways to take it beyond learning to say a simple thank you. And of course there are rituals like a gratitude journal that some families Institute with their kids or going around the table at the start of dinner or during dinner to allow each person to acknowledge something that they appreciate about their day or about one another. You know, dad, I really liked it when you came on a bike ride with me or Tommy, I really appreciated the fact that one I asked you to get the napkins, you just hopped right up. That was just such a comfort to me that I could sit down. 


Speaker 1: (08:15)

I loved that. Thank you. And then volunteering is another way to really instill within kids a sense of appreciation for the lives that they have, even when things aren’t always going well and there are so many opportunities for children to contribute to the world and to sort of build a sense of self esteem from the inside that helps them feel that they matter, that they’ve made someone’s life better, that there’s meaning in their activities. And I love the website volunteer match.org but there are a lot of ways that you can find kid friendly activities to do that are kind of customized to an interest of your child. If they really like nature, then there could be, you know, cleaning up a trail or if they’re a big fan of animals, you can perhaps help out at a shelter or at a pet adoption. We know that giving money is one way that we can show gratitude, but giving time and interacting with others as we kind of team up with people to maybe work at a fundraising marathon or clean up a school yard can really be meaningful and valuable for our children. 


Speaker 1: (09:23)

So lots of ways that we can help our children develop a natural affinity or tendency to look for what’s good even when things are going wrong. And of course there are those times when things aren’t going according to plan. Things are tough. And even then if we can both allow our children to feel their sadness and disappointment because I don’t believe that thinking happy thoughts or asking our kids to repress their frustration or disappointment is a good idea. I think it’s very bad idea to not encourage our kids to express their feelings. But we can also make space for the negative disappointment or the sadness or the loss. And then once they’ve had a chance to express that and feel validated for that, you may find that it can be helpful too. Show them what it’s like to consider any kind of pluses. So, for instance, if you’re really stuck in traffic and it looks like you’re going to miss the movie that you’ve all wanted to see, you can certainly say, ah, I was. 


Speaker 1: (10:24)

So looking forward to that and let your kids, you know, have their moment. And then you can say, how could we turn this into something good? What would be something fun we could do so that they don’t get stuck the way so many people do when things don’t go according to plan? So let’s wrap up with a tip. You could do this for Thanksgiving, but you could do it for any meal where you’re enjoying one another and you want to instill a sense of appreciation for all the effort that has gone into producing the food that you’re about to enjoy. Think about the person who grew the wheat or the keenwah for the stuffing or for the bread that you’ll be enjoying and offer them. Thanks for all their effort. Imagine that person sowing the seeds and taking care to water them when they needed it and perhaps fertilizing them. 


Speaker 1: (11:15)

And imagine the person who looked after the carrots. You know who tilled the soil and then made sure that they space the seeds a certain distance apart and then eventually allowed them to grow and harvested them and then pack them up so that they could be delivered to you to enjoy. When we help our children become more aware of all the little things that have gone into the clothing that they wear, the food that they eat, it can enlarge their ability to understand how blessed we all are. Even when we do struggle with so many challenges in life, there are always gifts to be noticed, so get in the habit of talking about the good things in your life and that will help create more of an atmosphere or an attitude of gratitude in your family.


That’s it for the topic today. Please visit Susanstiffelman.com if you’d like to get our newsletter or you’re interested in classes and eventsor the monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program. Remember to use Podcast19 at Susanstiffelman.com/membership. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. As always, if you have a minute, you can leave a review or rating. It’s much appreciated and please tell a friend you may want to subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified whenever we release a new episode. I look forward to joining you next time and meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. I’ll see you next time.


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