Ten years ago, when my children were young, we began a ritual that the whole family still enjoys today.
It all started because I wanted to teach Joshua, then age five, and Joel, then age two, about thankfulness in a way that was more fun and tangible than simply lecturing, “Be thankful.”
The idea took shape one day when Joshua charged into the room, held up a dime, and said “Mommy, will you take down my piggy bank so I can put this in?” Stretching that concept a bit, I wondered if the boys would go for a special bank that, instead of saving money, saved their blessings – those big and small events that bring happiness.
I rummaged around for just the right container… I then rounded up the boys and plopped a small gift box on the kitchen counter and asked, “Do you know what this is going to be?” Puzzled, they shook their heads. “Well,” I said, “when something really good or exciting happens in our family, such as when you lose a tooth or you’re kind to someone, we’ll write it down on a piece of paper. You can slide in the papers, kind of like a piggy bank. We’ll call it our Blessing Box.”
“We’ll keep the Blessing Box on top of the refrigerator, and when we want to add something we’re thankful for, we’ll bring the box to the dinner table to take special time to write a note and put it in the box. Then on Thanksgiving, we’ll open the box and read everything so we can remember and celebrate all of our blessings.”
Since the kids were young, we discussed their ideas and my husband and I wrote notes for them. They suggested events such as “Joel no longer gets up and eats a banana in the middle of the night” and “Joshua was kind to Joel even when Joel hit him.” It turned out that in addition to inspiring thankfulness, the box often provided an extra bit of recognition for a good deed or good behavior. And then there was the fun of sliding the notes into the “bank,” which the children particularly enjoyed when they were little.
As their reading and writing abilities evolved over the years, the kids were able to write notes themselves. As parents, Kevin and I found it enlightening to see what each child counted as important: losing a tooth, acquiring our dog, winning a basketball game, or Dad’s return from a business trip. The kids learned that even the tiniest events or accomplishments were fair game.
Some years, we added notes only every two or three months. Now that the kids are older, we have a more regular schedule. At the end of each month, on a night when we’re all home for dinner, our son sets the table with paper and pen by each plate. Then, while we dish up food or butter the rolls, we share our thoughts and write them down.
Although everyone enjoys these monthly thankfulness feasts, we really look forward to our annual grand finale on Thanksgiving morning. We open the Blessing Box, pass it around, and randomly pull out slips of paper to read. It definitely starts off the day on a positive and thankful note. After breakfast, I gather the pieces of paper into an envelope that I date and file. With ten envelopes tucked away, I know the Blessing Box helps our kids practice thankfulness year-round.
Kerry Stutzman, MSW
©2012 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents
As author of the easy-to-read “Save Your Sanity” series, Kerry helps parents save their sanity and sense of humor while raising young children with love and laughter.