Recently, Luke (age 9) has gotten really bratty at times, like MTV-channel teenager levels of bratty. We’re trying to have a near-zero tolerance policy on it, so when he starts that up, we give him one chance to change his attitude. If he doesn’t, we send him to his room with a piece of paper, and he can’t come out until he has written down at least ten things he’s thankful for. They can’t be ten things he wrote on a previous list; he continues each new list on the same sheet as the last one. Then he has to read the list to us, and assuming we approve of it, the list goes on the fridge until next time.
Above is an image of one sheet from the lists. You can assume these each finish the phrase “I am thankful that” or “I am thankful for”:
- the fact that I’m still alive
- I have so much that I have to give things [away]
- I go to school
- I have food
- I have a bed
- I have a dog and 2 cats
- I have the bible
- I have disciplin [sic] (to which he added verbally, “well, sometimes”)
- It’s almost Christmas
- I have my own room
The next list continues:
- I [am] not that sick any more
- I scored two goals [in the] last soccer game
- I have parents who made me write this
- I have so much food that sometimes I eat to much [sic]
- I go to church
- I have friends
- I have 16 days off
- I have a nice teacher
- (on back) I have grandparents
- (on back) that Jesus was born
There are more lists but I’ll stop here.
Thus far, this has been surprisingly effective. He is usually in his room for 15-20 minutes before returning with the list, but afterwards he is in a noticeably better mood.
This makes me wonder: would this be effective for me to do when I am bratty or grumpy?
I think I may try it in 2014. It’s so easy for me to fall into a sarcastic, snarky, complaining attitude. Life is crazy and stupid and frustrating in countless ways, and yet I have so many things for which I should be thankful. This sounds a bit like new age self-help babbling, I suppose, but after seeing it in my kids, and knowing I’m not much different in my own attitudes, it’s worth trying.
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” For me, this year, I am going to work on better thankfulness for the good things in life. And here’s a good place to start: thank you — really, you — for reading this blog, commenting on it, and joining me a little bit on this strange obstacle course called parenting.
I hope you and your family have a great 2014. Happy New Year!
Hey look, it’s time for my annual charity appeal. The end of December is like Black Friday for nonprofits: on average, 10% of each year’s donations are made in the last three days of the calendar year.
As with prior years, I encourage you to support my favorite nonprofits: Modest Needs (U.S.-based charity helping people get through short-term financial difficulties); World Vision (international charity dealing with everything from disaster relief to food security, from child sponsorship to drilling clean-water wells); and EngenderHealth (international charity dealing with women’s health, maternal health, and family planning). However, even more than that, I encourage you to support charities that are local to you: soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and so on. Please give as you can.