Teaching Kids An Attitude of Gratitude

Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better. The word gratitude comes from the latin "gratia" which means grace or graciousness.

Positive psychology research is strongly and consistently associating gratitude with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

In a study done at Wharton School in PA, it was proven that managing to say "thank you" to the people that work for them find that these employees are motivated to work harder. The study took a group of people who were to be calling fundraising groups over the phone. The group was divided in half. The first group received a pep talk from the director of annual giving saying how grateful she was for their efforts. The second group received no pep talk. The pep talk group made 50% more fundraising calls than group 2.

But really, gratitude is way more than the polite please and thank you-- it's a lifestyle, a mindset. Researchers have found that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as friends, health, nature, their jobs, or a higher power, and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely.

The trap however for most human beings though is the kind of "fools gratitude" or "fools compassion" when you are kind or generous simply because you want an ego pump or to subtly manipulate others. We address all these emotions in the HMHB Kindness Campaign for kids and teens and teach kids to observe these feelings and use their face it & erase it tools on these feelings inside.

That being said, the mental and deeper inner practice of gratitude is a habit you can grow within yourself and within your kids, even if the current situation seems bleak. According to a national online poll of 2,000 adults commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation, 59% of those surveyed thought that people today are "less likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago." The youngest group surveyed (18-24) showed they were least likely of any age group to report expressing gratitude regularly (only 35%) and the most likely reason to express gratitude was for "self-serving reasons" i.e. "it will encourage people to be kind or generous to me."

Psychologist Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, says that "much of the blame is on the self-esteem movement...parents were fed a myth that if children feel better about themselves (i.e. through parental praise and catering to their every need to make them feel happy) this would help children to develop character." He says what we're seeing is the opposite happening in most cases. "When parents organize their lives around their kids, those kids expect everyone else to as well, and that leads to entitlement, and when children are raised to feel entitled to everything, they are left feeling grateful for nothing."