Are parents supposed to teach you gratitude? They definitely teach you to be polite. When someone gives you something, you say, ‘Thank you’ but is that true gratitude? It is being polite and it is the appropriate reply but it doesn’t necessarily equate to being grateful. My parents did very well teaching me manners. I say please, thank you, you’re welcome, I even sometimes give a little smile when I say them, but were they able to teach gratitude?
I vividly remember my dad screaming at me for being ungrateful. Many of those times, I didn’t get why he was so enraged. He demanded appreciation for things I never asked for. Requiring gratitude for doing things that I didn’t know he did or recognized as important. Furthermore, how do you give gratitude? If you want a hug, I can give you a hug, but we aren’t huggers. I learned to say thank you but that was rarely enough to appease him. There is a big difference between saying thank you, feeling genuine appreciation and then learning to convey that feeling. Ultimately, constantly hearing about my ingratitude didn’t make me want to change and learn to give gratitude. I taught me that I am an ungrateful person and I accepted that.
Yet, as an adult I am learning gratitude is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give. It goes with everything. Even when you are in a bad situation and you are able to be grateful for the good things you have, it completely changes the situation. I understand a little bit better now why my father was challenging us to be grateful, he just didn’t know how to. He didn’t know how to teach gratitude and now I am beginning to grasp how difficult that may have been to teach.
Here is what I have learned so far. Always say thank you. Next you have to feel genuine appreciation. It is a weird emotion to have because it sometimes feels like the foundation for love and it can also feel unsettling to be that vulnerable. All the same, being grateful makes you vulnerable. Next you bring that gratitude into the world physically, whether it is with a smile, a hug or even just eye contact, find a way to convey your gratitude in a physical way. Next you have to learn to respect the situation. If you are truly grateful for something, it becomes precious to you and it must be respected. If there isn’t respect there isn’t true gratitude. Finally, to bring gratitude all around, there should be reciprocation. That doesn’t mean if someone gives you an apple that you need to give them an apple to show gratitude. It does mean though that you should hold on to that gratitude until you can pay it back some way, maybe with some herbs from your garden. Even that hug you gave as a physical manifestation of you gratitude may be your way of giving back, but somehow, some way you need to give back.
When I was young my mom taught me that when someone gives you food in a reusable container, you never return it empty. You clean it and if not immediately, you sooner or later return it with some goodies. I thought that was an antiquated Caribbean tradition I was brainwashed into at a young age. Sometimes it feels like what you were really receiving was a chore for some subpar cake that you probably won’t eat anyhow. In hindsight, that’s how you teach gratitude. Always return food containers with something in them to show genuine gratitude.