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."
When 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.
And 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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