Teaching Children Gratitude (Holiday Pedcast)



I was driving with my 92-year-old mother home the other night when an amazing statement came out of her mouth.  Out of the blue she made a very profound comment that really struck me as important, maybe even life changing for me. In one sentence, she summed up her view of her life and gave me a glimpse of how she sees the world.  Suddenly I realized how she has remained so resilient through the ups and downs of her long life.   So, in this year’s holiday message, I thought I would share a little bit of Grandma Betty Smolen’s wisdom with the hope that if you spend some time instilling her attitude in your children, they will have lives that are happier and possibly make them more resilient to the inevitable ups and downs they will experience in their lives.  I hope you will think it is as important as I do.  With that said, let’s get into holiday message 2016.

Musical Introduction

A Sense of Gratitude

What is it that Grandma Betty revealed, late at night driving home, that struck me as so profound?  We were talking about family get togethers and an upcoming family holiday reunion when she came out with the this gem, “Paul, you know there are not enough hours in the day for me to give thanks for all the blessing I have!” Wow.  Think about what that statement involves. First, it is a very humble view of oneself recognizing that much of what we get in life has nothing to do with us, but is simply a product of good fortune. Secondly, it embodies a sense of gratitude for everyday ordinary things since my mother has never been famous or well known in any way. She has never won the lottery or achieved extraordinary notoriety or wealth- no she has been a mom who had four children, all of who landed on their feet as adults. And thirdly, she perceives these mundane everyday good fortunes as so great that she can’t be thankful enough; there are just not enough hours in the day to say thanks. She is overwhelmed with gratitude.  Grandma Betty seems to embody the true spirit of what it means to be humble and grateful.  What my mother doesn’t recognize is that her good fortunes are simply a return of the kindness she showed others during her life.


The Ups and Downs of Life

Let me tell a little about my mother to put all this in context. She was born in 1924, just after the tragedy of WWI and right before the great depression. Her only sibling died suddenly of scarlet fever when my mother was three years old. Her parents never owned a home or went to college. She married at nineteen and her new husband immediately enlisted in the marines and went off to war to fight in WWII. Fortunate for me, he survived combat.  After the war came her four children, a failed business, serious family health problems, and many years of economic insecurity. Stability finally came during middle age years until her husband died of cancer. She became a widower at sixty. Through it all, my mother remained optimistic and positive, continuously volunteering to help others most of her adult life, finding fulfillment while living a simple life. I’m convinced that her optimistic attitude about the future and her sense of gratitude for everything good, sustained her happiness throughout her now 92 years. Rather than dwelling on her many misfortunes, my mother feels that there aren’t enough hours in the day to express her gratitude for her blessings. Amazing.

Your Kids Need a Sense of Gratitude

So, here is my holiday wish for you and your children; this holiday season, take a few minutes to stop and encourage your children to be grateful for family, good health, friendships, educational opportunities, the successes of those around them, and really, any good fortune that they experience. I think you will find that by doing so throughout their childhood, it will point their life compasses in the right direction and make them much more resilient when misfortune does come their way.


Thank you for joining me for this special edition of Portable Practical Pediatrics. I love doing a holiday message.  I would love to hear you chime in with your thoughts and suggestions of how to improve the lives of your children. Blogs are all about conversation and sharing so take a moment to let others know what you are thinking. You can do this on iTunes as a review or on my blog at www.docsmo.com. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, hoping you can teach your brood, a little about gratitude. Until next time.