Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home

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Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters PodcastMom! You gave her twenty-six raisins and I only got twenty-two!”

Flabbergasted, I turn to meet his eyes. “Did you just count the raisins?”

“But you gave her more,” he whines, eyes filling with tears.

“You are crying about four raisins.”

“But it’s not fair!”

“What are you supposed to say when someone gives you something?”

He pauses for a moment, frowns, and grumbles a barely audible “thank you” before adding, “but it’s still not fair.”

I take a deep breath and remind myself this is not about the raisins.

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of the parenting experience. Still, counting and comparing before uttering a thank you is not the kind of parenting experience I am looking for.

And I know I’m not alone.

These sibling squabbles always remind me of a quote by Louis C.K.:

The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to seee if you have as much as them.

We drill our children in manners, pleases and thank yous and excuse mes, but how do we cultivate true gratitude in our kids? How do we get them to look in another’s bowl to be sure that person has enough?

How do we get them to stop counting raisins?

My little friends are in an ungrateful pattern right now, and I’m tired of it. While I certainly do not claim to have all of the answers (please see raisin-counting story above), I am happy to share the strategies we’ve been trying over here.

Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home

{Advice from the Trenches}

1. Simplify

Whenever our little world feels off track, I simplify. If you’ve been listening to our podcast, you already know that Kara and I are huge fans of the book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. This is one of a handful of books that I re-read regularly. It is a breath of fresh air and an easy way to reset our family life.

Do your children have too many toys sitting unused and unappreciated? Too many clothes? Books they never read? Grab some cardboard boxes, fill them to the brim, and deliver them to someone in need… together! Sure, your kids may grumble at first but you’ll be teaching them important lessons.

2. Focus on gratitude

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve ended my day by focusing on a “highlight” for which I was grateful. These “highlights of the day” were often super simple: a peaceful cup of coffee, time spent with a dear friend, a stranger’s kindness. I don’t know whether I read about these highlights in a long-forgotten book or if I made them up myself, but I continue to pick a highlight to this day, decades later. (If you like this idea, be sure to stay tuned because Kara and I have added a new ending to our podcasts!)

Make space for gratitude in your day. In the past, we have maintained gratitude journals. During the holidays, we enjoyed a Just So Thankful Jar.  Teach your children to write thank you notes early and often.

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters Podcast

3. Model

Children are sponges. If you want to raise grateful children, you must practice gratitude yourself. Make sure you are using your manners. Serve others, give freely, say thank you. Share what you are grateful for with your children. Explain why you are thankful for them!

If you are deep in the throes of sibling squabbles and unkindness, give them a little incentive. Last summer, our family embarked on a simple yet effective Family Kindness Project and the results were amazing!

4. Teach children how to save, spend, and give

This year, my husband and I read a thought-provoking book titled The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. It gave us a lot of food for thought about raising children who know how to maintain a budget and give generously. Soon after reading the book, we implemented a weekly allowance system where one-third of the amount is for spending, one-third is for savings, and one-third is for giving. The change in our children was immediate. They quickly learned the value of a dollar, and they have started to research and donate to their own individual causes.

Give together. Donate to favorite causes. Volunteer as a family. If money is tight, give your time. When I was a college student, living on couscous and popcorn, I made it a point to donate blood every eight weeks. I continue to give regularly to this day- it is such an easy way to change a life.

More recently, our family has enjoyed gleaning together. We gather at local farms with other gleaning volunteers and collect leftover produce to deliver to local soup kitchens. It is a fun way to get involved in the community and lend a hand, even with active youngsters in tow!

If you are looking for more family-friendly service ideas, check out the website Doing Good Together!

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters Podcast

5. Read fantastic books

There is so much power in a story! I rely heavily on storybooks as teaching tools. A carefully curated stack of read alouds can serve as a stepping stone for fantastic conversation and learning. Over the years, our family has enjoyed read alouds focused on being thankful, kindness, mindfulness, and more!

6. Be patient

This is probably the most difficult part, but remember how your mom always told you that Rome wasn’t built in a day?

She was right.

It is normal for siblings to squabble. Developmentally, it is typical for children to focus on the self rather than others. Things will change. Keep up the hard work and teaching and modeling and giving and, with time, you will see a change.

Eventually, they will stop counting raisins.

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters Podcast

Gratitude-infused links:

Related books for adults:

Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters Podcast

Related books for children:

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Stop Counting Raisins Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home {Advice From the Trenches} | The Homeschool Sisters Podcast

What sparks joy in your life? Share here!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell us: Do your kids count raisins? What has been the highlight of your day so far? What brings you joy? How do you cultivate gratitude at home? Share here!

5 thoughts on “Stop Counting Raisins: Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude at Home

  1. Heather says:

    My husband and I also read The Opposite of Spoiled and implemented the “save, spend, and give” jars two months ago. My oldest still hasn’t fully grasped the concept. We’ve asked him what item he would like to save up for, but he can’t make up his mind. Then he decides that he wants to save up for something that equals the money that he gets and we say, “That is what your spend jar is for. You have to wait at least a few months to save up money for something.” As soon as he gets money he has this itch to spend it as fast as he can, which he does. I’m hopeful that he will eventually get it that if he saves his money, even in his spend jar, that he could get something that he really likes instead of junk. I was always a saver, so it is so hard to see him just want to burn through his money so fast :). I’ve also had the Simplicity Parenting book for about six years and I just have never got around to reading it, but I really must (I read his other book)!

    • My Little Poppies says:

      First, you MUST read Simplicity Parenting. 🙂 Kara and I are groupies!

      Second, I think the spending this is part personality/impulsivity. I have three kiddos. The first couple trips wee took to Michael’s (their choice), when they had saved a few dollars, they spent every penny. But, after realizing that cheap toys break quickly and that the fun wears off fast, they have changed. My daughter will spend a couple dollars once in a while and save the rest. My youngest, to my surprise, has been resisting the temptation to spend because he’d like a certain robot he saw on the internet. My oldest has great plans to save but then gives into spending. He is the most impulsive of the bunch. I have hope that he will get it in time 🙂

  2. Sarah B R says:

    I haven’t read the book but I have implemented a jar system as well for our 6 yo. We have 4: charity, savings, investing, spend.
    We wanted to teach her about using money to make more money thus the investing jar. Right now the investing will be in herself as she started a business: http://www.IamGratefulForYou.com (fitting with your post today). We bought her first batch of cards which she’s paying us back from revenues but now she’ll be buying them herself from her investing jar.
    We also implement a 10% tax. I find it very important to teach from the beginning that money you make is going to be taxed. When you earn 1$ you should know you don’t really get to keep 1$…It’s a good habit to build.
    As for gratitude: we say thank you for the food before eating and name 3 things we are thankful for before bedtime. We also ask her to write a thank you card immediately after opening a gift (which helps limit the gift opening frenzy of Christmas or birthdays).

  3. kelleyjumper says:

    Great post! My kids are just 3 and 1 but I can already see the “counting raisins” attitude showing up. Thanks for the thoughts on proactive ways to be intentional about this.

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