Today, I offer you a tip. This tip has a couple layers to it. We’re talking about helping kids receive gifts with gratitude. First, in a literal sense, and second, more metaphoric. (I love when the concrete can be applied to the abstract. Especially when dealing with kids, who are still learning to think abstractly.)
Many years ago, I learned the first (concrete) part of this tip, when I heard someone share a trick they had for preparing kids for situations in which they’ll be receiving presents. It’s a way of avoiding unfortunate comments from the child in the event that they do not love the present they got, and it’s very simple. You just teach them that whenever they open a present, the first thing they’re to do is say one thing they like about it. (Followed by “Thank you!” is ideal, of course.)
This is something you can practice with them before the gift-giving occasion. Hand them different things from around the house, and challenge them to say one thing they like about each one. I like to make it fun by choosing things that they’d never want. A single sock or puzzle piece, for example. An empty cereal box or toilet paper roll. Anything. They’ll laugh, but they’ll also think of something positive to say. Through practice, it will be come natural for them to receive things graciously.
This can also be made into a game if you have more than one child. I give each kid a paper sack and have them go around the house collecting 3-5 things that they would NOT like to receive as a gift. Then we gather in a circle, and the kids give each other items from their sack one at a time. The recipient has to say one thing they like about their “gift.” (Note: You may need to make an explicit rule that certain disgusting items are off limits, or you might end up with a used baby wipe in the mix.)
It recently dawned on me how perfectly this idea of finding One Good Thing generalizes to the rest of our lives. Happy people are those who can look at whatever life hands them and see the good in it. Who turn the lemons into lemonade. Who practice gratitude. This skill is far more closely linked to happiness than any beneficial life circumstances ever have been.
So now I teach my kids not only to receive actual, tangible gifts with One Good Thing, but also life circumstances in general. Particularly situations that are disappointing. We take turns thinking of a time we were sad, frustrated, discouraged or let down, and we share something “good” about it. I want this to become habit for them too. Maybe even more so than finding One Good Thing when they’re given a present. I want them to see One Good Thing everywhere. I want them to know that disappointing circumstances almost always are, in some way, gifts themselves.
In your own life, when things don’t go how you want them to, I challenge you to think of One Good Thing. Then, if you don’t feel better, think of one more. Repeat as needed. I think you’ll be surprised at how very many things that happen to us really are gifts.