Creating a gratitude practice is BIG in the conscious parenting world.
Reflecting on my early training in regards to expressing gratitude, it felt more like an obligation. Receiving a gift, advice or guidance from an adult, whether I liked it or not, the expectation was to say “thank you”. A learned a habit rather than expressing from a wellspring of true feeling became the norm.
Trained to value and be grateful for what was deemed “positive” while rejecting and demeaning what was perceived as “negative” by others created a division inside.
In recent years I’ve experienced another kind of gratitude. As I seek equilibration in my perception, including both sides of every experience, the positive and negative, I experience acceptance and appreciation for the totality of what is.
In parenting, embracing both sides is often not an option. Our conditioning supports expressing gratitude for positive “good” behavior in children while rejecting what we perceive as negative or “bad” behavior. Innocently we pass down this perspective to our kids, training them to the one-sided “thank you” that denies the intrinsic, beautiful gratitude that emerges spontaneously as you open to both sides of an experience.
This viewpoint is especially challenging when believing it’s your responsibility to teach your children how to behave in an appropriate manner so others don’t experience discomfort. You’ll experience and show gratitude only when they behave the way that makes you feel comfortable.
At one time, I believed that too. Behaving only positively, so the other didn’t feel discomfort, garnered the approval and love I’d been trained to expect. It wasn’t as if the other side disappeared. As it went underground it expressed through self-aggressing which led to depression. Denying half of my experience led to intensely focusing on the negative traits I perceived in my daughter. Determined to do everything I could to “stomp” them out, I trained my daughter to only see one-side as welcome.
What does practicing finding gratitude through equilibration look like?
Example: Seeing a behavior or trait in my daughter, that I claim is negative, instead of pointing it out trying to STOP it from happening, I slowly turn inward meeting the discomfort arising inside.
Looking deeply, I see the behavior or trait that I’m perceiving as negative in my daughter, also lives in me even though it plays out in a different form. As I turn towards this trait I witness a STRONG judgment wrapping around this part of my being claiming it is wrong or bad. Rejecting this part of myself I desperately long to turn away and annihilate this aspect for surely in expressing it love and approval will be withdrawn.
And yet, opening to my curiosity I witness the innocence of my being begging to be released from the overwhelming weight of judgment. Gently, I offer this part kindness entering into a new form of gratitude. Offering love to all of my imperfectly perfect being.
It’s a profound practice, taking personal responsibility, in your parenting, for offering gratitude to all expressions. This doesn’t mean condoning all behaviors and yet you are committing to offering kindness and gratitude to the feelings driving the behavior. For they only want to be seen, heard and understood.
Offer yourself the time to penetrate this.
Let’s practice together.
When your child exhibits a trait that drives you up the wall -such as acting lazy, instead of engaging with your child turn inward and ask yourself: Where do I experience myself as “lazy” even if is it is a different form? and when I find it how do I treat this part of myself?
Hate it? Want to get rid of it? Judging it as wrong or bad? Just notice your self-aggression to a part of yourself.
Courageously, take a step toward this part with curiosity and kindness. Look underneath the label and see the innocence and the wisdom it is trying to express. Remembering this long lost part it will finally be able to return home.
Committing to this practice you just may start feeling grateful for what is.