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  • Jessica Stong

Teaching Gratitude: Your Kids Will Thank You Later

We know gratitude matters. But can you even teach it during the trying childhood and adolescent years?

The simple answer is YES.

We can help combat feelings of entitlement with gratitude (in both children and adults). We can help our children look outside of themselves and feel a deep sense of thankfulness and peace.

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. — Cicero

Steps to Cultivating Gratitude in Your Home

  1. Talk about what you are thankful for at the dinner table. Have each person go around and say the three best things that happened to them that day. Or Don’t have time to sit down to dinner? Take time to chat during your commute to school or when you are putting the kids to bed. Anytime is great to ask.

  2. Keep a gratitude journal. For older kids, they can keep one themselves. For the younger set, I have kept a family log where I record my children’s comments. {I was so taken by a study of sixth and seventh graders who wrote down 5 things they were grateful for every day for 2 weeks. Another group was assigned to write down 5 hassles. As you can guess, the gratitude journalers had a better outlook when measured three weeks later. You can have even have a gratitude photo journal.}

  3. Remind everyone that they get to choose their attitude. You choose what your mind thinks about, what you focus on. In our family, we choose to focus on the positive. (Now we stress it is important to fully feel our emotions, but we get to choose how to think.)

  4. Lead by example. Talk about how grateful you are for the little things in life.

There are so many wonderful resources, but my favorite is this research study: Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Jeffrey J. Froh, William J. Sefick b, Robert A. Emmons Journal of School Psychology, 2008.

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