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HELP FOR THE FAMILY | PARENTING

Teach Your Children to Show Gratitude

 Studies indicate that grateful people are happier and healthier, cope better with adversity, and have stronger friendships. Researcher Robert A. Emmons notes that being grateful “protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.” a

 How do children benefit from being grateful? In a four-year study of 700 youths, those with a grateful attitude were less likely to cheat on tests, abuse drugs and alcohol, or have behavioral problems.

  •   An attitude of entitlement weakens gratitude. Many children feel that they are owed the good things that happen to them. There is little room for gratitude when a blessing is viewed as a paycheck rather than as a gift.

     That attitude is rampant today. “Our world is a workshop in entitlement,” observes a mother named Katherine. “The media bombards us with images of all the things we ‘deserve’ and tells us we should be first to get those things.”

  •   Gratitude can be instilled early in life. A mother named Kaye observes: “Children are malleable. Teaching them good habits while they’re young is like using stakes to help a plant grow straight.”

How to teach gratitude

  •   Teach the vocabulary. Even young children can learn to say thank you when someone gives them a gift or shows them kindness. As they grow and mature, they will gradually come to appreciate the generosity of others even more deeply.

     Bible principle: “Show yourselves thankful.”—Colossians 3:15.

     “Our three-year-old grandson freely says ‘thank you,’ and each request ends with ‘please.’ He learned that from his parents. Their manners and expressions of thanks are teaching him to show gratitude.”—Jeffrey.

  •   Teach the actions. Why not have your children write a thank-you note the next time someone gives them a present? Also, if you assign chores to your children, you will help them appreciate the effort it takes to keep a household functioning.

     Bible principle: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.

     “Our two teenagers contribute to the family by planning meals, cooking, and doing chores. That helps them appreciate the effort that we put forth as parents, and they’re less likely to take these things for granted.”—Beverly.

  •   Teach the attitude. Think of gratitude as a plant that thrives in the soil of humility. Humble people recognize that they need help to succeed at any endeavor, and that makes them grateful to others for the support they receive.

     Bible principle: “With humility consider others superior to you, as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Philippians 2:3, 4.

     “Sometimes we play the ‘appreciation game’ at dinner. Each person takes a turn relating something that he or she is thankful for. It gets everyone thinking positive, grateful thoughts rather than negative, selfish ones.”—Tamara.

 Tip: Set the example. Children will more easily learn to be grateful if they hear you regularly express your gratitude to others—and to them.

a From the book Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.