By Amy McCready, TODAY Moms contributor
If you’re like me, you have a lot of things on your “Thankful List” this season. Mine includes everything from the roof over my head to the fact that my favorite old sweater is still around for another season.
But what about the usual list-topper: our family? While we’re so grateful for our kids deep-down, sometimes actually acting thankful for all the moments — even when your first-grader spills the entire box of cereal right before it’s time to leave for school — can be challenging, to say the least.
We get used to focusing on our kids’ faults for the simple reason that we want to “fix” them. We notice the attitude in their voices, the clutter they spread throughout the freshly cleaned house, and the way they can never seem to remember to keep their mouths closed while they chew. It’s our job to help our kids grow into responsible adults who don’t drive away their dinner guests, and we take our work seriously, as we should.
But along the way, it’s every bit as important to be grateful for what we have: a precious, wonderful, remarkable child. In the words of Glennon Doyle Melton, who blogs at Momastery: “Don't let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid, that you forget you already have one.”
We really do have great kids, don’t we? Let’s be truly grateful for them this season, just as they are. Here are my top tips to not only be thankful, but also to act thankful for our kiddos. Put them into practice and you’ll be celebrating a happier, more peaceful holiday season:
1. Be thankful for time: No matter your kids’ ages, they crave one-on-one time with us. And that’s something we can squeeze out for them without spending a dime. Commit to giving your kids 100 percent of your attention daily and individually, for just 10-15 minutes, and you’ll immediately reap the benefits. Getting into our kids’ worlds builds bonds we’ll be grateful for in decades to come.
2. Be thankful you get to: Let’s face it: Nobody loves carpool lines or standing in the cold drizzle during a soccer game. But next time you’re tempted to vent, “I have to…,” change your words to say, “I get to. “ “I get to drive my kids to school. ” “I get to watch my daughter play soccer.” This simple tweak will help you remember to find at least a little something to be grateful for while you’re watching tiny athletes trot aimlessly around the field. What’s more, it’ll lend perspective: in 20 years, we won’t be doing this, but we’ll probably give anything to be back here again, living in this moment.
3. Be thankful for the good stuff they do: Sure, any kid could accidentally butter the toast before it goes into the toaster, or not-so-accidentally put gum in their sister’s hair. But they do a lot right, too. Focus on the good stuff by offering words of encouragement whenever you catch them “in the right.” Comment on the effort, kindness, perseverance or teamwork they demonstrated, not just the outcome (because any parent with a child in sports knows that outcomes aren’t always what we’d hoped). Tell them, “All that practice is paying off!” or, “You sure put a smile on Grandma’s face with the card you made.” Your goal is to encourage the good behavior or character trait, so they know you appreciate them. And as an extra bonus, they’re more likely to repeat the action in the future.
4. Be thankful for celebrating: It won’t be long before the holidays look a lot different in our homes — maybe more people around the table, maybe fewer. Either way, you can make the most of the season with your current houseful. Rather than dreading your to-do list (which can make anyone less jolly), share it with the family, allowing everyone to choose whether they’d rather wrap gifts, bake treats or decorate the door. Your guests will be happy to pitch in, too — especially if they can add some of their own traditions. Sure, you might not have the Norman Rockwell-meets-Pinterest holiday you’ve been dreaming up for the past 12 months, but you’ll be filled with more of the peace of the season, and the ability to truly enjoy it.
5. Say thanks for all the moments. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to say thanks ... for it all. Shawn Fink, founder of the Abundant Mama Project, reminds us why that's important. "Saying thanks for the teachable moments, thanks for the hard times, thanks for the learning curves, thanks for the blows and blunders is just one way to find peace in your daily life. Rather than dwell, say thanks. Thank you for this moment."
6. Wake up and say WOW. We all need to wake up to the wow in our lives. As Fink says, "Wow lives and breathes in every corner of our homes and in our families. We just have to know where to look for it and how to find it. Wake up and think Wow ... another day, another sunrise, another day to get it right."
This season, let’s all be grateful for what we have: truly great kids. By showing our love and gratitude in new ways, we’ll make the holidays more meaningful than ever.
This post originally appeared on Today Parents. Contributor and Parent Toolkit expert, Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. Her next book, "The 'Me, Me, Me' Epidemic: A Step-by-step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World," will be released in August 2015. Follow Amy on Facebook.
Of all the gifts your kids could get their hands on this season, there’s probably only one that will ensure their happiness will outlast a pack of batteries. I’ll give you a clue: It’s nothing you can put a bow on. I’m talking about the gift of a grateful heart.
Believe it or not, there's a way to cut through the distractions and foster a spirit of gratitude — during the holidays and all year round. Follow these tips, and your kids might actually start counting their blessings instead of just the items on their wish lists.