Mothers Have Needs Too!

Allison Gilbert, LMFT, Santa Cruz Counselor Lic: MFC 24087


When I was a new mom, I didn't want to hound my kids about saying please and thank you.  My philosophy was: gratitude should be something that comes from the heart rather than fake and forced.  Luckily, my husband instilled "good manners" in our kids and I am grateful to him for it.

Up until the age of three, children have a natural sense of awe, wonder, love and appreciation for life.  Unfortunately, as kids grow older, their natural appreciation fades in response to all the bumps and bruises of life.  For this reason, I believe it's imperative to teach our children habits that express gratitude and appreciation.  Gratitude doesn't come naturally and yet, it's a very important skill.

Adults also need to practice these skills.  It's so easy to focus on the negative.  Bad news sells and the newspapers and TV understand that.  It's human nature to focus on what's missing or what needs fixing or what could be better - as a way to prepare or protect ourselves and our loved ones.

In the Jewish religion, there's a wonderful series of gratitude prayers recited in the morning after waking up.  There's even a gratitude prayer to recite after using the toilet!  That prayer expresses appreciation for health and for body parts that work the way they're supposed to.  Jewish tradition recommends saying 100 prayers of gratitude each day!  To help you out, they have a prayer for every occasion you can think of and every activity throughout the day - there's even one for tragedy.

When positive behavior doesn't come naturally, the Jewish belief is that it's better to behave in a positive manner even if you don't feel positive inside.  Fake it 'till you make it.  Practice makes perfect.  Just do it.  These are popular sayings that come from that same idea: that we can deeply change ourselves from the inside by simple, daily actions - whether we feel like doing them or not.

The following are a few tips for enhancing your personal experience of gratitude.  Pick on and practice it for a few days and see how it changes your perspective.
  1. At the end of your day, write down at least 3 things for which you are grateful.
  2. When you wake up in the morning, immediately focus your mind on appreciation for being blessed with another day (whether you feel it or not -just pretend - I've heard it said that hypnosis is imagination and pretend).
  3. Stop in the midst of your day and sit down, take a deep breath and look around you.
  4. Notice the sound of your children's voices when they're talking to you.
  5. Look at your child's face when he/she is sleeping.
  6. Go for a walk and feel the breeze on your skin.
  7. Find some trees or play some music, dance to music, walk in nature or go to the beach.
  8. Create a family gratitude journal and make it a practice to record something from each member at dinnertime once a week or once a month.
There are many little things we can do to enhance our gratitude on a daily basis.  One of the more important jobs of being a mother lies in being a role model for the expression of gratitude.  Our children need to know how much we appreciate them and how important it is to count our blessings.

2006 Allison Gilbert, M.A., L.M.F.T.; Free Tips

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 "Allison, you were a lifesaver. I hope you don't mind my rhapsodizing about your help, but I am still incredibly grateful to you for helping our family in our time of need, and so I will continue boasting about how awesome you are to just about anyone who will listen."-Mother of a preschooler and a newborn

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