Gratitude is an important character trait that works like a muscle.  It needs a regular work out to grow and maintain its strength.   Most parents want their kids to be thankful and appreciate all that we do for them.  No parent wants a self-centered, spoiled and entitled child.  Interestingly, research also indicates that children with a grateful life view are not only more enjoyable to be with they also have many more positive and tangible life outcomes than those who don’t.

A recent study showed that kids who practiced gratefulness every day for two weeks had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction three weeks later.  Another study showed that kids who showed high levels of gratitude and/or thankfulness for beauty of nature and strong appreciation of other people had reported having stronger GPA’s, less depression, envy and a more positive outlook than less grateful students.  Teens who strongly connected buying and owning things with success and happiness reported having lower GPA’s, more depression and a more negative outlookThe study’s co-author Jeffrey Froh says, “Materialism had just the opposite effect as gratitude-almost like a mirror.

These findings add to an abundance of existing research that shows people who are grateful report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and low levels of depression and stress.   In addition, grateful people tend to be more satisfied with what they have and are less vulnerable to disappointment, regret and frustration.  Grateful people are also more likely to contribute to their communities by “giving back” in ways that make other’s lives better.  Teaching a child about the importance of gratitude and cultivating it at home can have a lasting impact.

Try these ways to practice gratitude in your family this Thanksgiving season:

TALK:  During every day conversation talk about what and who you are thankful for.  Be sure to include things you can’t buy like love, health, joy, faith, and friendships.

TRADITION: Create a gratefulness ritual during mealtimes.  Go around the table and encourage everyone to share what they were grateful for that day/week.

EXAMPLE: Be a good gratitude role model.  Say thank you to the grocery cashier or please to the restaurant server.  Treating others with respect is a practical way of demonstrating thankfulness.

HELP:  Require your children to help around the house.  It will give them more appreciation for all you do and cultivate responsibility.

WRITE/DRAW:  Encourage children to hand write notes of thanks to teachers and staff for the work they do every day to make sure your school is a great place for kids to learn and parents to participate.  (Pictures work just as well as words for younger children).

SERVE:  What better way to demonstrate gratefulness than by helping someone else?  Donate food to Bountiful Baskets, PROP or CAP.  Help your children select gently used items from their closets to give to someone else.   Visit an elderly neighbor or have your child help you prepare a meal for someone who needs it.

SHOW:  Remember to show gratitude to your child, thanking him/her for something he/she has done, especially showing kindness to another person or doing something extra without being asked.  Extra hugs never get old!

SAY:  Remind your children to thank the people in their life that make a difference (i.e. their bus driver,   piano teacher, soccer coach and you).              

Thank you and have a happy Thanksgiving!!!  Please contact me if you have any parenting questions.

Lisa Weir, M.Ed., Parent & Family Educator, Schools of Eastern Carver County                                       weirli@district112.org