If we thought specifically about it, many of us would find that we don’t give or hear expressions of gratitude as often as we should. If you feel this way, you are certainly not alone. Remembering to express gratitude can help us and our family members. Gratitude begins with an inner feeling. When we're grateful for the good things happening around us, especially when we’re with those we love, expressing it helps the feelings of love and tenderness to grow. Expressing gratitude can bring a calm sense of well-being.
Gratitude includes saying “thank you” and being polite. But it goes beyond these expectations. Expressing gratitude is the beginning of courtesy, generosity, concern, and appreciation for family members and others.
A deeply felt and fully expressed gratitude is an effective way to positively influence attitudes and behavior--our own and those of others. Learning to feel and express gratitude can have a significant effect on the happiness and success of every family member.
So how do we help our families feel and express gratitude? First, watch the brief video on Expressing Gratitude by clicking on the arrow in the window. Then read the information under the two tabs The Big Picture and Things to Try. These sections contain information to help you improve your own and your family members' ability to express gratitude more effectively.
"There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed. If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude." ~Robert Brault
Where Does Gratitude Begin?
Any effort to produce happiness in the family starts with you, and this includes teaching gratitude.
You may be tempted to ask, “Can that be right? My kids are the ungrateful ones!” Most of us start family improvement efforts with by focusing on the “offender,” by trying to change our child’s attitudes or behavior.
Let’s step back and look more objectively at our perspective. If we always focus on the behavior of our children, we may miss the origins of that behavior--ourselves!
What are the Benefits of Gratitude?
Expressions of gratitude build up and encourage our children and spouses. Our family members need to know that we appreciate things they do, efforts they make. They and we need to know and feel the many ways we are blessed.
One way to focus our minds on the things in our lives that should engender feelings of gratitude is to write them down.
A gratitude journal is a treasure of private expressions of thankfulness that helps us recognize all the goodness in our own lives and in the lives of those we care about.
A gratitude journal can also help us recognize opportunities to express our gratitude. As we notice the things we are grateful for, we will be more inclined to express gratitude to others, thus multiplying the positive benefits of our gratitude.
Being an Example of Gratitude
“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means” (Albert Einstein).
Our children more easily learn to feel and express gratitude if they grow up seeing gratitude expressed often in our home. Let your children see you expressing gratitude, showing appreciation for what you have and for what others have done for you.
Our feelings of gratitude reflect our character. When we express gratitude, our children feel loved and appreciated. They learn how feeling and expressing gratitude blesses their lives and the lives of others.
Children learn gratitude best by watching their parents show gratitude.
Expressing gratitude seems so simple, yet its positive effects are immediate and lasting. To effectively express gratitude in our families, we must first develop within ourselves the attitude of being appreciative; this attitude will spread to increase positive feelings in our families, foster love, build relationships, and reduce criticism.
Imagine the feelings of the parents of a young man described during one of the Brigham Young University Devotionals.
“There sits a young man here today in whose home I was a guest. Since he had recently left for [university], I was to sleep in his room Saturday night. As his mother showed me the room, she opened his closet where I saw a handwritten letter taped to the rod in the closet. It read:
Mom, Thanks for all you’ve done to make this a special summer. You are a very special mother and I thank the Lord for the blessing of being your son. I love you and appreciate all you do in my behalf. See you in November.
“As she paused while I read it, she said, ‘Hope you don’t mind hanging your clothes out here. This note is still kind of precious. You know, every time I open this closet I read it again, and I would like to leave it there a little longer’” (What Kind of Thanks? Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [26 Nov. 1968], p. 5).