Raising Happiness


Teaching Gratitude in a Culture of Entitlement

November 16, 2007 | The Main Dish | 7 comments

In our video blogversation, Kelly Corrigan and I talk about some practical ways to raise appreciative kids.

For example, keeping a daily gratitude list is a simple way to make thankfulness a habit. Actually, it might not even have to be daily! In one study, researchers had people list five things they felt thankful for once a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, participants "felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the future."

tools-icon-fridge.gifWhen things aren't going well, we can use gratitude to cultivate the growth mindset. If we think of failure as something to be thankful for, a necessary step in learning, we are embracing growth and challenge. With a fixed-mindset, you are defined by your mistakes—failure is an identity, not an event—which makes thankfulness seem impossible.

Encouraging our kids to look hard for a reason to actually feel grateful for unpleasant events or difficult relationships teaches growth and promotes change. Looking back on my own childhood, I am honestly grateful that I was teased a lot in elementary school because it made me empathetic and kind in junior high—I knew how painful teasing was and I wasn't going to be a part of it. Those early difficult experiences fostered a resilience that has served me well since.

At night before bed, I ask my kids to tell me about three good things that happened during the day. I've found that they think about what they are going to say throughout the day, and so the practice is making them notice good things they will later appreciate.

tools-icon-book.gifAnd we shouldn't forget about the tried-and-true thank-you note as a way to raise appreciative kids. Psychologists have tested a particularly effective take on the thank-you note they call the "gratitude letter" or a "gratitude visit". It is simply a thank-you note to someone like a teacher or other influential person you've never explicitly thanked that you deliver in person and read out loud.

So much of our human relationships are about giving, receiving, repaying – that is how we are connected to one another. Expressing gratitude for this acknowledges just how deep the emotional connection runs.

Interested in reading more about Gratitude? Check out these stories from Greater Good Magazine:

Pay It Forward
Gratitude may seem like a simple emotion, but Robert Emmons argues that it inspires kindness, connection, and transformative life changes. And he's done the research to prove it.

Love, Honor, and Thank
Researchers Jess Alberts and Angela Trethewey have found that a successful relationship doesn't just depend on how partners divide their household chores, but on how they each express gratitude for the work the other one puts in.

A Lesson in Thanks
Psychologist Jeffrey Froh infused middle-school classes with a small dose of gratitude and found that it made students feel more connected to their friends, family, and their school.

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I think of several things I’m thankful for as I go to sleep at night. It really works. I wake up happier. Gratitude also seems to help me be the best that I can be. Love this web site.

Sylvia | 9:12 pm, November 17, 2007 | Link


I think of several things I’m thankful for as I’m falling asleep at night. It really works. I wake up happier. It also helps me to be the best that I can be.

Sylvia | 9:15 pm, November 17, 2007 | Link


As my kids were growing up (not they’re 21, 17, and 11) we investigated several faiths and never quite got a habit of “saying grace” before meals down in the traditional way.  However, what we did say (which evolved organically) and what they say on their own now, is “Thank goodness, we get to eat again!”  Simple.  Quick.  Automatic.  Sincere.  A habit of gratitude.

Denise Flora | 7:06 am, November 19, 2007 | Link


I am thankful for your comments. They help me in my job as a mother.

Claude | 4:49 pm, November 19, 2007 | Link


I think your blog / advice is the best I ever saw!

Thank you so much!

Is there a way of getting the videoblogs to my hard drive (save) rather than only on the WEB, so I can easily share these?

Adi | 4:51 pm, November 19, 2007 | Link


Having gratitude on a daily basis teaches our children positive living instead of victim mentality.  Psalm 103:2 was preached today at church.  “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Don’t forget a single blessing) .  “In the midst of adversity give thanks for your blessings.”  Bill Bright from Campus Crusade.  The adversity can be a blessing if we embrace it and learn the lesson or it can become defeat. 
We are body, soul and spirit.  We need to teach our children how to nourish each part of us.  Not one thing should be left out. 
Thanks for your Blog.  Great work you are doing. 
Beth Farrington

Beth Farrington | 1:40 pm, November 25, 2007 | Link


Oh my gosh, I just discovered this website and this will be a lifesaver!!!! Can’t wait to apply all this GOOD stuff.
Thank You

Lisa Smith | 1:56 pm, August 12, 2009 | Link

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