We just discovered the book, "Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier" by Dr. Robert Emmons, a Ph.D. in psychology. In it, Emmons describes the importance of gratitude in our lives.
"Gratitude," he says, "is not simply a form of 'positive thinking' or a technique of 'happy-ology,' but rather a deep and abiding recognition and acknowledgment that goodness exists under even the worst that life offers."
It is hard to imagine what life would be without gratitude. Yet we speak and reflect on it very rarely. Why is that? Often, it can seem to be contrary to the sense of independence and self-sufficiency on which we pride ourselves. We men like to think we're in control, powerful, able to solve any challenge. Won't adopting an attitude of gratitude make us indebted and weak?
We want our kids to be appreciative -- for the work we perform, the home we provide, the guidance we give, the love we share and the protection we provide. As dads, we work hard for the benefit of our families. We'd like a little thanks once in a while, a sense that what we're doing makes a difference.
Yet so often our kids are oblivious to the sacrifices we make. They move through our lives, benefiting from our hard work, sacrifices, commitment and loyalty while exhibiting little appreciation. Sometimes we feel like ghosts in their lives -- unthanked, unappreciated and urecognized.
How do we teach our children to be grateful? We think it should start with you, dad. Begin to expand your own sense of gratitude. It will pay dividends for your child and create a greater sense of happiness for you.
Emmons points out that we often think happiness comes from a job, a certain income, a particular car or some other circumstance. But research is showing that true, lasting happiness is not based on circumstance. While income and work and circumstance have some impact, family and friends and the gratitude we experience from recognizing the blessings of others have a much bigger impact on our sense of happiness.
So how do you develop a sense of gratitude and teach it to your child?
• Recognize your helpers. Think about those who made a difference in your life -- family, friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors. Recognize that others were instrumental in your success.
• List your blessings. What are the gifts of your life?
• Reflect on difficult times. Remember when things weren't so good and appreciate your improved state.
• Search for opportunities to serve. What situations have been available for you to give to others?
• Value tokens. Appreciate the small kindnesses you receive every day.
• Focus on others. It helps expand your view.
• Adopt an attitude of gratitude. It will make you a happier person and pay dividends to those children who look to you for inspiration and guidance.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc.com. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.