Why Gratitude Matters

Are you raising deeply grateful children?

Posted Nov 23, 2016

When I started counting my blessings,
my whole life turned around.
- Willie Nelson

Gratitude is a prerequisite for true happiness. If you want to raise a happier child, then gratitude must be on the family curriculum. I’m not talking simply about saying “thank you,” but of course, that’s helpful—but genuinely building in a family practice of thinking and feeling grateful for the little to big things, no matter what. Sitting with my 8-year-old child client, Lucas, I asked him last week: Can you share 5 things that you’re grateful for? And he looked at me blankly. It’s not something he’s learned to do yet, so it prompted me to share these suggestions on how to turn the dial-up on gratitude, especially in our children.

How to grow gratitude

Let’s not forget gratitude isn’t simply words. We’ve all said thank you, but when was the last time you felt so grateful tears streamed down your face? Of course, that is epic gratitude but you get the point that we want to guide our boys and girls to feel thankful because that’s where the real “juice” is. Here are 3 simple suggestions to get you started:  

  • Rose and Thorn – You’re probably familiar with the family dinnertime activity of asking: What is your rose? (Best part of the day); and what is your thorn? (Most challenging part of the day) It’s this simple exercise that gets the most clammed up children to chat, and reveals what’s really happening at school. But I suggest emphasizing the roses more, and ask for 3 roses. And then only 1 thorn. When I asked my 10 year-old neighbor, Sam, what her 3 roses were she said: Playing outside, being off from school, and having a neighbor like me (aw). Children that can learn to focus on the positive parts of life (people, things, and moments) can then be guided to feel appreciative for them, too.    
  • Gratitude Movie – Using technology as a tool to grow gratitude in children can be highly effective and just plain fun. When you’ve got 5 minutes, watch this short film, Gratitude, by Louis Schwartzberg with your children, and see what they think: Or perhaps this will spark a creative idea in your family, and you can create your own home gratitude movie.
  • Projects – Getting children directly involved in helping those less fortunate can bolster their growing sense of gratitude. Whether it’s bringing soup cans to a soup kitchen, donating old toys to children in need, or handing out PB&J sandwiches to the local homeless with you, of course—the direct experience of helping others can help them to see how fortunate they already are.

What I know for sure is that children that can grow gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness are happier children. Similar to a muscle developed at a gym, the feeling of gratitude only grows with regular, not periodic practice. So my suggestion is to have fun with this. Create a unique game with your family whether it’s going through the alphabet from A to Z and being thankful for something beginning with each letter from Apples, batman, cats and so on to something else that speaks to your soul and cultivates the success skill of gratitude. After all you cannot be angry and grateful at the same time, so learning how to hook into gratitude despite whatever shows will help your children move toward their happiest lives.

Maureen Healy is an award-winning author, popular speaker and coach working directly with children and their parents globally. Her mentoring program for highly sensitive children has helped children across the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada and Mexico. To learn more: www.highlysensitivekids.com