Does Your Athlete Need to Grow Her Gratitude Muscle?

You do a lot for your kids.

In addition to the basics — food, housing, medical, education, direction, and protection — sports parents provide extras. Lots. Of. Them.

Things like:

  • Transportation to and from practices and games
  • Gear required to participate
  • Extra lessons for skill development
  • Apparel that needs to be regularly replaced
  • Your free weekend time, given up for sporting events
  • Camp fees and applications
  • Extra food to support physical activity
  • Meals and hotels on the road for travel
  • Medical attention for injuries

The list goes on. And if you have more than one child participating, you can expect the costs to multiply exponentially.

It MIGHT be tempting to feel that your kids OWE you— big time.

And before you know it, payment in the form of scholarship dollars starts dancing around in your head.

However, attaching a child’s show of gratitude to their performance is risky business.

So what should you expect in the way of gratefulness from your kids?

And how exactly can you teach a child to be thankful for the opportunities and blessings that come their way?

Here are 4 practical areas to pay attention to when your child seems to be taking a lot for granted.

1) Model It

If you struggle with a child who lacks gratitude, the first place to look might be in the mirror.

Parents of toddlers thru teenagers quickly come to the realization that kids copy what they see and hear. If you spend a lot of time complaining, grumbling, and expressing dissatisfaction, then it’s easy to understand why you aren’t hearing “thank you,” very often.

Pro Tip: Ask a close, trustworthy friend if you tend to take things for granted or if you regularly focus on what you are not happy about.

If you need to make personal adjustments, then apply the next 3 areas to your life— alongside your athlete.

2) Talk About It

Too often we talk about the issue of being grateful ONLY when we are frustrated by a lack of it. And unfortunately, what is remembered most in those types of conversations is Mom or Dad’s annoyance.

Talk regularly with your kids about the blessings you have as a family. Be expressive about even the smallest of gestures—like when your neighbor takes your trash cans up to the curb.

Pro Tip: Make it a dinner-time habit to have each person at the table share a “high” for the day or something they are thankful for.

Encourage your athlete to express thanks to their coach about his investment of time and teaching.

3) Write It Down

One of the downsides to living in a digital world is that we are slowly becoming less inclined to WRITE things down.

But research reveals that our brains process info differently when we take pen to paper. Moments before the words appear, your brain is evaluating and organizing the facts. This quick activity fixes ideas more firmly in your mind and also makes it easier to recall.

Pro Tip: Encourage your athlete to keep a thankfulness journal by their bed. Help them to develop the habit of writing down at least one thing they are thankful for from the day. Remind them that it will be fun to look back over the year to see what was going on in their life.

4) Practice It

Athletes, in particular, understand the relevance of practice. If they have spent any amount of time on a team, they clearly see the value of repeating something over and over and perfecting it along the way.

The “gratitude muscle” is really no different than other muscles—it needs to be worked.

Pro Tip: Sometimes practicing a habit requires stepping out of comfort zones. Ask your athlete to think of one person they can write a thank you letter to—perhaps a coach or teacher. Once they have written it encourage them to either send it or go and read it to the recipient.

You can make this exercise even more impactful by “practicing what you preach.” Write YOUR own letter to a boss, co-worker, or family member and share it with your athlete before sending it out.

Considering All This

Have you ever viewed your child’s sports participation as an investment rather than the gift you give, or the opportunity you provide?

Slipping into that mindset is easy, but unhealthy for the relationship.

Just as easy, is for our kids to begin taking things for granted.

Working on the gratitude muscle as a family can help prevent these toxic attitudes. And as always what is learned in sport extends well beyond practices and games—it follows us into life.

Now it’s your turn to take the first step toward a more grateful heart. Please take a moment to share one thing you are thankful for and one step you plan to work on with your athlete.

Michelle Wells, Contributor

Michelle is a wife to one and a mom to six, with 20 plus years of experience at both. With a love for being active in sports, she took her passion for competitive training to the world of triathlons where she rocked the elite age group level for several years. In an effort to share her enthusiasm for a balanced and healthy life she inspires others through personal training and freelance writing.

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