Now when I was pregnant I read countless books and magazines on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and what to expect during each stage. Since Kellan has been born I have read 2 books on teaching good sleeping habits, and 3 books on infant nutrition (one day there will be more posts about this I promise!). Not to mention all of the articles on breastfeeding, schedules, milestones, teething, and activities for infants. Out of all of this I have read, none of it has been about teaching good character...I needed this book.
Now the book is definitely spoken from a strong Christian voice but most of the qualities in the book, (be grateful, worry less, play more, have compassion, be humble, be content, forgive, be truthful), are characteristics I think ANY parent would want their children to possess. The book club reads one chapter a week so I've only read through chapter 4 but I wanted to share a few things that I have learned so far.
First of all everything that Mrs. Larson says is so common sense! When you read it you feel silly for not thinking of it yourself. All of her suggestions are easy to add to your daily life. Now some of her ideas are a little too early for me to try with Kellan but its amazing how much I can already start doing now...even though he's so young. A lot of what she teaches I want to be an automatic part of our lives before Kellan is old enough to understand and be influenced. For example:
Chapter 1: Be Expectant
"Cultivating a heart of gratitude in our children is impossible unless we ourselves are grateful. We can't impart something we do not possess." This quote actually made me stop reading and sit and think. Wow. I can't teach Kellan something I myself don't have. I can teach and talk and tell him everyday of his life how thankful HE should be for all that HE has but if he has a mom constantly complaining about what she DOESN'T have...what am I really teaching him? What kind of outcome should I expect? It is human nature to complain and compare yourself to everyone around you. There is always going to be someone that has something that you want. I'm trying to retrain my brain to be grateful for what I DO have instead of focusing on what I do not.
Here is what Mrs. Larson suggests: Throughout your day say OUT LOUD what you are thankful for. Thank God for the beautiful weather, a warm/cool house, the delicious lunch you just ate (OK so maybe it wasn't DELICIOUS but you had food to eat), loving friends and family, etc. This sounds simple but it is actually a little more difficult than it seems. I kind of feel a little silly going around talking to myself during the day but when I speak, Kellan looks up and listens. I don't know how much he understands now but one day soon he will...and when he does I better be saying something good!
Another thing that she suggests that I have started is writing in a gratitude journal. Everyday I try to write down a few things that I'm thankful for. Now once you get past the obvious (loving husband, health, family, home, etc.) you really start to think of small, specific things that you take for granted. In the book Mrs. Larson tells about putting her sons in the car after a grocery store trip and stopping immediately to say a prayer and thank God for the weeks' worth of groceries they now had. I go to the grocery store at least once a week and never do I stop to be grateful for having money to buy what we need and plenty more of what we just plain WANT. I not only have not been grateful for having money but also for having a grocery store available that is stocked full of clean, healthy food choices. To be honest, you would more than likely hear me complaining about living so far away from BETTER grocery stores with MORE healthy choices and BETTER produce and BETTER meats...instead of focusing on what I DO have, I'm more in the habit of complaining about what I DON'T. Instead of complaining about the sleepless nights that I have had lately due to Kellan's teething, I remember to say thank you for a healthy baby that is reaching all of his milestones right on track. Instead of complaining about living so far from shopping, museums, grocery stores, restaurants etc., I remember to be thankful for a car to take me to any of those places anytime I want. Instead of complaining about the infinite amount of times I wash dishes and clothes, I remember to be thankful that I have both a dishwasher and washing machine, CLEAN, HOT water and soap...and most importantly, two good hands!
Writing in the journal definitely has given me a whole new perspective of so many things that I have forgotten to be thankful for because I have taken them for granted. Just because its something that I have always had doesn't mean I shouldn't still be thankful for it...and stop to SAY that I'm thankful. Many people out there NEED so many things that I have and that I take for granted daily. My gratitude journal has made me make a conscious effort to turn my complaints into positives. Instead of learning ways to teach Kellan how to be grateful, this book is teaching me that I need to work on myself first. The number one way that kids learn is through watching someone model a behavior (good or bad). Its not easy but I'm hoping if I keep it up it will become habit. In turn, hopefully I can instill in Kellan a natural habit of being grateful for all that he has.
Bottom line: A whiny, ungrateful mom = a whiny ungrateful child! Do I expect or even think there's a chance Kellan is going to become a perfect child? No. I know he will make mistakes and will frequently exhibit characteristics that I will wonder where in the world he got them from and think this CANNOT be MY child! But...I do know that as parents we get this brief amount of time to influence our children and raise them the best way we know how and when its over its time you can't get back. I plan to make the most of my time and do whatever good I can! I will post more soon about the following chapters...I have lots to learn!