Written, November 2018.
My oldest son recently created what we call his Appreciation Tree. This idea started a few years ago when my younger son was having difficulty getting his relational circuits back on during moments of upset. In the midst of these “stormy seas,” my husband and I would ask our sons to quiet for a moment then think of something joyful that made them smile.
My youngest son could not turn the corner and think of anything in the moment of upset. Because I like to paint, I had the thought of creating a visual reminder of the things he enjoys that may help him regain his relational brain in those moments big emotions are present. Together, we created his Appreciation Tree. We made a list of all the fun things that “make him smile.” First, we painted a tree on a large canvas; then we wrote something that makes him smile on each of the leaves. You can read more about how we used the Appreciation Tree.
Practicing appreciation is a fundamental ingredient that keeps our household running smoothly. Appreciation helps us recover when things go wrong. We heavily rely on this useful skill. We share appreciation, we express appreciation with God, and we reflect on previous moments of joy when the current circumstances are less than joyful. Not only does appreciation help me keep my cool as a parent, but appreciation also helps me recover when I lose it. (You can read more about how this works here https://staging.thrivetoday.org/sick-
It is crucial for our children to use appreciation as part of their daily routine. For this reason, a number of my previous blogs cover this topic. You can view my blog here to read some of the benefits of appreciation.
Sharing what we appreciate has become an integral part of the morning routine for our family. Mornings are tough, much like dinner time. There are mornings when getting out the door is a big challenge, and sometimes we climb into the car with whining or tears. However, by the time we arrive at school, the boys are often smiling or even giggling. “What turns the tide?” you ask; it’s appreciation!
During the commute to school, we take turns sharing what we appreciate. Even on the grumpiest of mornings, appreciation turns things around for all of us. Find out how we started our tradition or see other examples of how appreciation has turned around a rough morning in Redirecting a Rough Start and When You Just Can’t Adult.
Appreciation is our go-to step to help our children repair the relationship after hurtful words or behaviors take place. We found something was lacking from the repair process when one son would hurt the other with his words. Even if the apology was accepted, there was often more grumpy words and hurt feelings that followed close behind. Things began to turn around when we added the requirement that the person who used hurtful words needs to share what he appreciates about the injured party. Read more about how this important addition changed the game.
This month, as we enter the season of thanksgiving and gratitude, we are emphasizing how the skill of appreciation in our family has been a great gift. You can read more about our November tradition here: Tom the Turkey. It is my heart’s desire to have you join us this month in the practice of appreciation, in your personal life, in your family, at work and in your interactions with God. I challenge you to select one or two ways you would like to incorporate appreciation into your life this month and allow it to flow into your day, even beyond November. Appreciation is simply too valuable to use for only one month a year!