Raising Grateful People

Grateful Parenting

Raising Grateful People

By Roxi Nevin

I love statistics. Looking through them and adding my own theories as to what parts of them may be affected by external circumstances not considered is one of my favorite parts of researching any given topic. (Also, one of my favorite things to do). It stems from an already curious nature and is fueled by an inane desire to know things and the reasons behind things. It’s said that kids ages 3 to 6 ask 300 to 500 questions per day. My mom’s reaction to hearing this statistic a few years ago was “Yes, but not you – you asked no less than 3 THOUSAND questions per day, far more than any other child I’ve ever known”. My mother is the 2nd oldest of 6 children, and we had a lot of kids in the house growing up – so she has a pretty good grasp of what kids are like, but she frequently makes quips about how different I was as a child compared to other kids. This doesn’t surprise me. And as an adult this made total sense, considering how I must limit myself when researching something – otherwise, I’ll go down what I like to call “The Wiki Wabbit Hole” and end up with 120 tabs open with links to various pages and sources.

Some recent research into the statistics of how Gratitude affects children I found was quite fascinating. I learned that we hadn’t really studied this extensively before 2005, but that there have been several long-term studies in recent years regarding the effects of gratitude on children, and how it affects them as adults. in 2006, psychologists Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson conducted an analysis of parents’ descriptions of their children’s strengths where they compared the 24-character strengths present to the level of happiness of a given child, and —and found that gratitude had the strongest relationship to life satisfaction. These studies are showing that gratitude can facilitate greater social support in both childhood and impacting our social skills as adults and can reduce stress and depression overall.

We all know that the best way to teach our kids something is to live it. Children will often model their behavior after their parents’, so just being a grateful person can help teach your kids how to be grateful, but if you’re like me – you may be wondering, what else can I do? I try to make sure that our household focuses on the intrinsic value of life by engaging in activities and offering gifts that can’t be bought, but that’s not always feasible. I find this the most difficult during a birthday – because I want to make sure that my kids make this special day about them. I place a lot of value on a birthday in an almost spiritual sense.

Life is the absolute greatest gift, and by placing significant importance on the anniversary of our birth we’re celebrating not just our birth date – but our lives as a whole. So, I feel the need to go out of my way to make their birthdays as significant and memorable as possible. They get to open one present the night before (usually new fun pajamas or a cool book to read at bedtime!) They wake up to balloons in their bed, the number of years they’ve been alive, and other decorations around the house. They have a special breakfast (everyone’s invited!) and a special birthday pancake. If there is school that day, cupcakes at snack time with a little class party, plus a special dinner, a regular party/celebration with just family with what certainly feels like too many presents. But what’s most important is that at the end of the night, when bedtime comes, we sit and talk about the day. I ask them, “What was the best part?” (Presents can’t be included). What was your favorite moment? Which was your favorite message inside a card you got? Who do you wish could have been there that wasn’t able to come? What did you learn? And other questions more specific to details of the day.

Asking these types of questions helps both myself and my kids because it can help us both figure out what matters to them. It’s important that kids develop a strong understanding of what’s important to them in life so that they understand why gratitude is such a beneficial aspect of overall happiness. It’s also important to encourage social interactions with other people. Not just kids, but adults too. I like to include the kids in conversations when possible, even in public. Getting kids used to other people helps them garner feelings of nurturing, which is a key component to gratitude. Kids must have a reason to want to be grateful towards others, and a general respect and mutual understanding with other people will be an important factor in this.

According to this article from The Berkley Education blog – Research suggests that the experience of gratitude has four parts, but we rarely teach all of them to our kids. It tells how researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro have conducted a study on children starting when they were in Kindergarten, all the way into their teens, and that through this study, and their expansive research, they’ve determined that the four key parts of gratitude include:

  • What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
  • How we THINK about why we have been given those things
  • How we FEEL about the things we have been given
  • What we DO to express appreciation in turn

It also states that 85% of people place our focus on what we DO to express gratitude – leaving very little left for the other three parts. This tells me that I want to put a bit more focus on the other three parts when it comes to my children, to even the field a bit. So, my goal is to ask questions every day that focus on these four parts, the five C’s, and the Seven Principles of Acknowledgment – and combining all these factors could be the ultimate key to success at raising grateful people!