By Michelle Mitchell, author, speaker, educator and ambassador for Australia’s National Day of Thanks.
It is not difficult to notice times when authentic gratitude is lacking in our homes. I have come to recognise that an indulgent life doesn’t make kids happy. The ‘Give Up’ strategy is a quick gratitude booster that any family can use when gratitude is lacking. It requires us to take something away from our children’s lives, until their appreciation for it increases again.
Familiarity blindsides many of us. Sometimes imagining something is gone is enough to make you appreciate it. I know someone who imagines every day that their loved ones die so he doesn’t take them for granted. I am not sure if I would want to visualise my husband and kids dying each day, but every now and then it pays to stop and take stock of what life would feel like if they were gone.
The ‘Give Up’ strategy reminds me of the way I used to rotate my children’s toys when they were little. It was especially helpful after Christmas when their toy box was so full they couldn’t find anything. I had about three groups of toys which I would swap regularly. Two would stay in the cupboard, packed away, until the novelty had worn off the ones they were currently playing with. Each time I brought a different set of toys down from the cupboard, it felt like Christmas. I always found when they had too many toys, they lost interest in all of them. We make it hard for our children to be grateful by giving them too much.
We might try and use the ‘Give Up’ strategy with our kids by saying, ‘If you aren’t thankful, I am going to take that away.’ In fact, research says that is not a bad idea. We can temporarily give up something and then reintroduce it at a later date. If our children were to spend a few weeks a year living with someone else, or in a third world country, it would undoubtedly boost their appreciation for what they do have at home.
A perfect time to use the ‘Give Up’ strategy is when our children don’t take care of their belongings. For example, if your child has an iPhone and a case, but they decide to take it out of the case and it accidently gets smashed on the ground, the subtraction strategy might help. Giving up a phone for a while may help them take care of it next time. The same may apply if they keep losing something you paid for. Don’t jump in and financially bail them out, as that approach won’t teach gratitude.
This is a powerful truth which will help guide your daily parenting: Our children will eventually lose what they aren’t grateful for.
For more, check out Michelle’s book “Everyday Resilience: Helping Kids Handle Friendship Drama, Academic Pressure and the Self-doubt of Growing Up”. This book is available in all good bookstores and www.michellemitchell.org
For information and resources to help you and your community celebrate the National Day of Thanks on 25 May go to Thanks.org.au.
*Australia’s National Day of Thanks is celebrated on the last Saturday in May each year*
Michelle Mitchell is an author, award-winning speaker and parenting expert.
In 2000 Michelle left her teaching career and founded Youth Excel, a charity which has supported thousands of young people and their families with mentoring and psychological services.
Michelle presents to parents, schools, churches and mental health professionals on wellbeing, family and connection.
Her innovative work has been featured on the TODAY Show, Channel Ten Morning News, Today Tonight, 96.5fm, ABC radio and in countless print media including The Age, Dolly Magazine, Australian Women’s Weekly and the Courier Mail.