Attitude is the deciding factor in whether or not life is a pleasure or a burden. The best time to develop a good attitude toward life is when we’re young, although it’s never too late. This family night lesson will help your children choose their attitude.
Show pictures of two children or teenagers. (You can use coloring pages or pictures cut from magazines.) In this example, they are named Sarah and Sam, but you may alter this as you choose. Do not use the names of real people.
Sarah and Sam both had chores to do. Sarah came home first and had to be reminded twice by her mother to get started. When she did start, she whined and fussed the entire time, grumbling about how unfair life was. Everyone else in the house found themselves feeling cranky as well. It took Sarah a long time to get her chores done because she worked slowly and spent more time whining than working.
Sam came home from his practice just as Sarah was finishing. Although he was tired from a long day of school and practice, he went right to work. He put on some cheerful music and sang as he worked, smiling and even dancing around the room with the broom as he swept. Soon everyone else’s mood picked up as well and they found themselves humming along to the music and finding their own work easier. Sam’s work was quickly done and he went to his room to rest.
Begin a discussion on the subject of attitude. Take time to really listen to the answers your children give. They may not give the answers you wanted, but by listening without judgment, you’ll learn about them and teach them to trust you with their true feelings. Guide them toward an understanding of what you want them to learn.
Ask: What was different about Sam and Sarah’s experiences with chores? How did their attitudes affect those around them? Why do you think Sam and Sarah had different experiences? Sam and Sarah each chose the attitude they would have toward their responsibilities.
Who do you think had more fun doing chores? Why? How can our attitudes determine whether our lives are wonderful or awful?
Do you have to have a perfect life to have a good attitude? Do you know anyone who has trials who still has a good attitude? Do you think it would make the trials easier?
Ask your children to think of Bible stories about people who had trials and still had a good attitude. (Job is one example.) Ask them if Jesus had an easy life. Have them open their Bibles and find proof that Jesus had a good attitude even when he was being killed. What helped him to maintain a good attitude instead of whining and giving up? (He knew who He was and why He was here. He knew there was a purpose to these trials.)
If your children are older, give them each a folded sheet of paper and a pencil. Have them go to a corner of the room or another room nearby where they can have a little privacy. Give them five to ten minutes to write down a trial they are facing or something in their life that makes life less than perfect. Assure them they won’t be asked to share what they write. Tell them once they’ve identified this item, they are to write down three blessings that might come from this trial and three ways they can change their attitude towards it. You may want to begin with some practice items to show them how to do it.
Example: I am not a good reader.
Blessings: I’ve learned to work harder than other kids to learn things. This will help me be a responsible adult. I’ve improved my listening skills, since I can’t learn as well from reading instructions. I am kinder to other people who have trouble doing something because I know how it feels.
Attitude adjustments: I can write (or have someone else write) every small improvement I make in my reading and celebrate the progress I’m making instead of whining about the words I can’t read yet. I can create a pleasant space for working on my reading. I can ask someone whose company I enjoy to help me practice, since it’s more fun to work with someone I enjoy working with.
If your children are younger, have them draw and decorate a happy face. Cut it out. On the other side, have them draw and decorate a sad face. Write their names on both sides and put them someplace visible, sad face up. When children have chores, homework or other responsibilities, ask them to go to the sad face and turn it over to a happy face. You can do this throughout the day—have your children decide if they’re being happy or sad and turn the face accordingly. Then, if they’re sad face up, ask them to make a plan to cheer up. When they’re cheerful, they can turn the face around. You might want them to make a picture chart of things that cheer them up during work times, such as music or work games. They can refer to this when they need to change their attitude.
Teach younger children the song Smiles, which teaches children that if they have a frowning face, they can turn it upside down to make a smiling face. If you use this song, you might like to use the face pattern found in this lesson instead of the one above. It is a happy face one way, but turned upside down, it’s a sad face. The pattern is found at the bottom of the page. You’ll also find here some action rhymes to supplement this lesson.
Discuss with your family ways to improve attitude on a generally bad day, including:
Focusing on the good in the activity or life in general.
Changing the way we do something to make it more fun.
Focusing on the eternal blessings of what we’re doing or of life in general. Gratitude is a mood changer.
Imagining Jesus right beside us as we work.
Gain a better understanding of why what we’re doing matters.
Get better at doing what we do—we tend to enjoy what we’re good at.
Promise ourselves a non-material reward when we’re done. (Avoid food or purchases. Instead, promise yourself time to read a good book, a phone call to a friend, or some other pleasurable activity. Our rewards should be something we give ourselves, not a bribe from someone else.)
Encourage your family to monitor their moods in some way for the next week and then to note how their lives change as a result. Remind older family members to put their planning sheet where they will remember to work on it.