Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Gratitude Game: A Solution to the Grumbles

This was originally posted on my other blog, like the previous post was. But I thought it would go well on this one as well since it deals with parenting, so forgive me for posting it in two places.

So yesterday I wrote a response to some of the complaining and grumbling I had seen around facebook due to a second cancelled day of school on the heels of Christmas break. It gathered a few comments and reactions (oddly, none were directly on the blog, but all on my facebook link to it).

Admittedly, my children had been getting at each others' throats for a few days.  My wife connected it to when they found the old Super Nintendo, lugged it upstairs from its box in the basement, connected it to the television, and started playing. One controller was broken, so they could only play one player at a time. The non-playing brother would sit close by and offer "helpful" suggestions during play. Which inevitably led to sore feelings and inappropriate comments toward one another.

I pointed out that it didn't matter if they were playing video games or not. They were getting to the point of verbal combat with one another over the simplest thing, electronic or not.

And I understand that this is why some parents hate an unexpected day off from school. Especially on the heels of sixteen previous days. Especially when we've been in the midst of this "polar vortex" with -50 degree F windchill.

Thankfully (that word is about to come into play) I remembered all the writing I've done and all the conversations from friends about the importance of gratitude in one's life. So yesterday, on our drive to the YMCA for a little swimming (and to get out of the house) after a morning that wasn't completely pleasant around the house at times I made up a little game. It went like this:

"Okay, boys, we're going to play a little game (groans emerge from the back seat). Each of us is going to think up something that completes the sentence "I'm grateful for...or I'm thankful for..." (more groans). I'll start and then I'll count to five and then Anders has to share something before I finish counting. After he shares then it's on to Nils who has to share something before I count to five. Then it's back to me and we keep going. But if anyone doesn't think up something before I count to five, they're out. I'll give you a few seconds to think up at least two things your thankful for before I start."

By this time the moans had diminished and they were beginning to take it seriously. So I started. And the gratitude kept going around.

Some were serious: I'm grateful for a warm house; I'm thankful that the gas tank is full so I don't have to pump gas in this cold; I'm thankful for our Y membership right now; I'm grateful for the food we have to eat.

Some were more frivolous: I'm thankful for root beer; I'm grateful for candy; I'm thankful for Legos; I'm grateful for that I won Milles Bornes (the card game).

I had to mail a package at the post office on the way, so I had to pause the game then. We had already done nearly a dozen shares each. Now part of our bedtime routine is sharing something we're thankful for each day and then praying. Some days they have trouble coming up with something. But this format made it possible for them to keep going.

So I offer up a solution for those days of grumbling, fighting, and complaining: the gratitude game.

It can't hurt to give it a try. You might just be grateful you did.

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