Q: I enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, but I want our kids to learn that it's more than just food, football, shopping and days off from school. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: One of the secrets to a happy life is gratitude -- not just brief moments here and there where we acknowledge the good things in life. I'm talking about living a life of gratitude.
Gratefulness isn't just an emotion we feel; it's a choice we make. This is especially important considering the problems we all face in life. We may have to search for reasons to be grateful. Perhaps we're having trouble at work. We can still be thankful we have a job. Or maybe our child is making poor decisions. Although we're disappointed, we can be grateful they're healthy and safe at that moment.
Gratitude is not merely thankfulness when everything is going right. After all, life is rarely like that. Instead, gratitude is understanding we live in a broken world, yet choosing to be thankful anyway.
To do that, we have to intentionally see the goodness in our lives. That can be tough, because the smallest blessings can be the hardest to notice. But they're also what help give our life its richness and meaning.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a great occasion to begin that practice. In our household, we go around the table and share what we're grateful for. But once the holidays end, we carry that tradition on throughout the rest of the year because we believe it's important to do.
Life will always confront us with challenges, and those hardships can sap us of our gratitude. But making it a daily habit to pause and reflect will help us remember just how much we have to be thankful for. For more encouragement to make every day count, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: Our three teenagers seem to have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I know that sort of goes with the territory, but it's driving me nuts. Do you have any advice?
Danny Huerta, Executive Director, Parenting: For various reasons, this seems to be an epidemic in our society. Teens (and many adults) often feel entitled. They think they "need" it all and feel they "deserve it" without having to do anything to get it. That attitude can cause problems.
It can be challenging as parents to teach our kids contentment and gratitude -- and the difference between "needs" and "wants" -- but these are important life lessons. Here are some tips on emphasizing these character traits.
First -- and this may get a little uncomfortable -- there's no substitute for you modeling the right priorities. Take an honest look at yourself. Think of what your children learn if you're never satisfied with what you have and always "need" more. More than likely, they'll see happiness as something that's continually just out of reach. Have the courage to adjust your own perspective if need be.
Second, teach your kids a solid work ethic. Many teenagers expect something for nothing. But what they need to learn is to earn the things they want. Whether it's a part-time job or tasks around the house, let your kids work. It'll teach them the value of a dollar. It'll also teach them delayed gratification, and the rewarding feeling of accomplishing goals through perseverance and patience.
Finally, look for opportunities for your teen to help those in need and less fortunate. It can be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with yard work or cooking for a sick family member. By genuinely serving others, your kids will learn the joy -- and reward -- of putting someone else first rather than acting out of self-interest.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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