Raising Happiness

 

How Not to Raise an Ungrateful Brat

November 9, 2007 | Posts with Videos | 7 comments

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Gratitude is an Attitude
Christine Carter

Did you know that grateful people sleep better?

Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.

tools-icon-fridge.gifGrateful people not only feel good, but they act good, so to speak; their joy and enthusiasm is palpable to others. Studies show that people who have been taught to practice being appreciative offer more emotional support to other people. Grateful people are more likely to be both kind and helpful. And the spouses and friends of gratitude practicers report increases in energy, excitement, and attentiveness.

We need to teach our children to be grateful because American culture glorifies independence and undervalues how much others help. We see our blessings as hard-earned. One gratitude researcher, in a recent article for Greater Good magazine, describes a scene from The Simpsons: "When asked to say grace at the family dinner table, Bart Simpson offers the following words: 'Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.'" This sense of entitlement will not lead to happy lives. Pioneering social scientists think that 40% of our happiness comes from intentional, chosen activities throughout the day. Choose to be entitled, choose to be grateful—whatever you decide, it is going to influence your happiness.

So why don't more people choose thankfulness over cynicism and entitlement? I think we lack ways to talk about gratitude. My kids have picked up rich notions of what romantic love is from watching Disney princess movies, but probably couldn't say a word about how Cinderella feels thankful for all her fairy godmother has given her or how she expressed that gratitude. We don't talk much tools-icon-book.gifabout good things that come from other people's efforts, about the ways that our neighbors and coworkers and grandparents contribute directly to our own well-being.

The good news is that thankfulness is not a fixed trait. It's is a skill that can be cultivated, like kicking a soccer ball or speaking French. Gratitude is one of the ways that we teach our offspring to forge critical social bonds. So as a society it is in our best interest to teach habits of thankfulness and appreciation.

Check out this gratitude tool: www.thanks-o-meter.com!

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Thank you so much for plowing through the journals and bringing us these nuggets.  As a result of following this series I have been learning and changing how I speak to my kids, my music students and the kids I work with on Sundays.  I have also to told some of my neighbors and students’ parents about your work and have heard back that they are making changes, too.  There seems to be such a hunger for improvements around these issues, and the science gives us confidence to try things out, not just go on blind faith.  I hope you will be glad I plan to quote you and link to you in my work for Sundays so those parents can see what you are doing as well.  Thanks also to Alison Murdoch, essential-education.org who told me about this website.  Keep up the great work!

Denise Flora | 6:51 am, November 19, 2007 | Link

 

how do you handle a sort of ‘negative’ inclination in young kids (3 -5 yrs old)? we try to have gratitude conversations at dinner and when we ask our kids what they were thankful for that day, they say ‘nothing.’  we go ahead (parents) and talk about what we are thankful for, but the more we coax, they more resistant they are to participate. my kids are general ‘good’ – respectful, thoughtful to others, etc. they just haven’t taken to this idea and i am disappointed and want to know if there is another way to go at it? thanks http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/half_full/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif

dani | 8:37 pm, December 12, 2008 | Link

 

I’m happy to see these ongoing discussions and focus on raising “good” kids.  Your site is a great resource and every post I read is a reminder that parents and educators are putting their kids first.  Keep up the good work : )

George Garner | 2:29 pm, January 11, 2009 | Link

 

I think expressing gratitude is paramount to lasting happiness!  Great advise!  When I think about my own family and what I teach my kids, gratitude is definitely a part of it.  We recently had a family activity on how to pray.  In my church we are taught to first thank our Heavenly Father for specific blessings, and THEN ask Him for things that we need.  The exercise of praying morning, night, and before each meal, each time thanking God for specific blessings He has blessed us with, keeps our minds focused on gratitude throughout the day.  Expressing gratitude lifts burdens and gives proper perspective.  Great website!

Heidi Smith | 7:45 am, February 21, 2009 | Link

 

I love your articles and input.  I have two boys (8&9) and you are right on with your comments.

Taya Paige | 2:53 pm, June 15, 2009 | Link

 

so true.  My kids are age 5 and 6 (both boys), and it has occurred to me recently to start teaching the boys how to be grateful for their lives and circumstances.  Of course, in researching, I found your web-site first.  Thanks for the good tips.  I love the simpsons quote.  I know I’m supposed to learn and teach my kids to be grateful, but I might have to use that once or twice just for giggles http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/half_full/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif

Keith Wilcox | 6:50 am, August 30, 2009 | Link

 

To the parent whose boys were not responding to the gratitude discussion…my daughter’s kindergarten teacher used to have the kids do “rose and thorn,” which we picked up and did for awhile (not sure why we stopped, but we should start again).  Everyone went around the table and stated what their “rose” was (their positive of the day) and also their “thorn” (their negative of the day).  The kids really liked it, even my son who was only 2 at the time.  Stick with it – i think your kids will get used to it and eventually participate and enjoy it.  Some one else I knew with teenagers did ‘high/low’ in an effort to get just a bit of info out of them.  good luck http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/half_full/wp-includes/images/smilies/icon_smile.gif

DKatz | 10:07 pm, March 2, 2010 | Link

 
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