This is a column I have used the last few Thanksgivings; and I always have many people who ask me to re-run it, so here it is. Millions of parents will pause this Thanksgiving to do what the day was created for – to give thanks for the many blessings that exist in their lives. Turkey, pumpkin pie, and especially the presence of loved ones surely will receive their fair share of gratitude. Parents will also give thanks for their children’s health, their own health, and the health of their other loved ones and friends. The abundance provided to us in this country, our freedoms, the opportunities for meaningful work, and the laughter of children will be acknowledged with thanks by loving parents as they thank God for their many blessings. Indeed, this traditional holiday does call for the traditional thank-you’s. But what if your appreciation this year took on a new look? What if the blessings you counted included situations that aren’t usually regarded as helpful, useful or valuable? Consider the following.
Why not be thankful that your child is behind his grade level in reading ability? This struggling reader is giving you the opportunity to read to him regularly at night. This evening ritual will help build connectedness between you and your child while at the same time modeling your love for the printed word. Great literature like The Little Engine That Could or Make Way for Ducklings can be shared as you simultaneously bond with your child. This opportunity can be an incredible blessing. Appreciate it.
Why not be thankful that your daughter’s soccer team lost their last game? It is important that your children have experiences of both winning and losing. By losing, children have the opportunity to learn to handle defeat and bounce back the next time. With your help, they can learn that winning or losing is not the measure of who and what they are as human beings. They can learn they are more than the score. They can learn that it’s effort, energy, and playing up to potential with good sportsmanship that defines a winner, not the scoreboard. Appreciate the opportunity the loss brings and be grateful for it.
Why not be thankful that your teenager received a speeding ticked for going 45 mph in a 25 mph speed zone? Getting a ticket is not necessarily a bad thing…not if your teen learns from it and slows down her driving. If she takes personal responsibility, pays the ticket, and is more cautious about her driving, the ticket may well save her life or the life of someone else in the future. Bless the ticket and give thanks for its blessings.
Why not be thankful that your 8-year-old shoplifted in the grocery store? This is the perfect time to teach your child about shoplifting. Better now than when he helps himself to someone else’s car when he is 18. Teach him how to make amends. Teach him what to say as he returns the candy bars to the storeowner. Help him learn to articulate what he learned and what he intends to do differently next time. Bless this perfect time to teach lessons about taking things that don’t belong to you. Be grateful for the opportunity.
Why not be thankful that your youngsters track mud and sand into the garage and house? The next time you stand in the garage furiously sweeping sand and wishing that your children were better behaved; quietly remind yourself that one day you’ll wish you had sand to sweep out of the garage. Love the mud. Love the sand. Be grateful for the signs of the presence of children in your life.
Why not be thankful for sibling rivalry? “He got more than I did” and “It isn’t fair” are common childhood refrains. Hitting, poking and teasing your sister are typical childhood behaviors. Bless these opportunities to help your children learn how to get along with each other. Use them as times to teach interpersonal skills and the importance of touching each other gently. Sibling rivalry can be a signal that your children need lessons on how to interact positively with each other. Bless their unskillful way of asking for help. Be grateful that you recognize it and help them grow in working and playing cooperatively.
Why not be thankful that you got to stay home with a sick child last week? You didn’t have to stay home. You got to stay home. You didn’t have to take him to the doctor. You got to take him to the doctor. You got to make sure he received the health care he needed. You got to show him you care enough to drive all over town to the doctors, the pharmacists, and back home again. You got to be with your child while he was sick. Not everyone gets to be with their children when they are sick. If you did, chalk it up as a blessing. Celebrate it.
Why not be thankful that your adolescent asked you about oral sex? This is a great sign. It means your child trusts you enough to talk to you about sex. It means she is not getting all her sex knowledge from the street. It means you have been taking your role as sex educator in your family seriously and that you have moved beyond “the talk” to having an ongoing, honest conversation about the important subject of sex. Congratulate yourself. It is a blessing that you are willing to fulfill that role for your child and that she is responding to it positively. Give thanks.
Why not be thankful that your 22-year-old has moved out of your home? Did you really want to raise a 30-year-old Nintendo player who sits around your house all day sucking up Coke and pizza? Hardly! Your goal was to raise a responsible, caring, confident child who would move away from home when the time was right for her. You have been successful. Pat yourself on the back. Yes, it would nice if she had chosen to spend this Thanksgiving with you rather than with her boyfriend’s parents…but maybe next year. This year give thanks. Your child is a responsible adult. That is a blessing.
Why not give thanks that your child is spilling milk, talking with his mouth full, wiping his hands on his new pants, refusing to eat his vegetables, and interrupting his grandmother at the dinner table? It means you have more work to do as a parent. It means your job is not yet done. This is a blessing. You are still needed to help your child learn to pour milk more carefully, improve his table manners, learn to eat nutritiously, and show respect for elders. Give thanks for these opportunities.
Why not be thankful for your special-needs child? Do you have a child with ADHD? Is your son autistic or dyslexic? Does your daughter have Down’s syndrome? Is your child facing a serious health challenge? Your children are in your life for a reason. Perhaps God sent them to help you learn patience, understanding, or commitment. Perhaps they are here to teach your family about tolerance, acceptance of differences, or unconditional love. Their presence is a blessing. Be thankful for the contribution they are making to the world and to your family.
This holiday season remember that parenting is a ministry. It is a sacred role that you are being called upon to perform. Give thanks that you have been called. Give thanks that you are willing to step forward and accept that call. Appreciate that you are being shown the way. Celebrate yourself and your contribution to healing the planet by helping your children evolve into the people they were meant to be. Give thanks that you are up to the task.
This column is from an article written by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller, the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the country’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how you can better meet your parenting needs, visit their websites: www.chickmoorman.com or www.thomashaller.com.