Money Smart Athlete Blog

Sport Parents: Teaching gratitude to your kids

Jan 12, 2022 | Parenting

By Iacovos Iacovides, APC Sports

Gratitude is the state of being thankful, the readiness to show and express appreciation as well as return kindness. Everyone should be grateful for what they have, of who they are, of how they look, and for their life in general.  That is, of course, not to imply that we should not try to improve ourselves, our personality and our material possessions.  We should learn how to be thankful for where we are and who we are right now because that is the result of all our previous good and bad decisions.

In life, we always socialize with people from diverse educational and socioeconomic backgrounds which implies that we will meet people with more wealth, possessions, social capital and education. We will also meet people with less.

Unfortunately, we always tend to compare ourselves to the former groups; those who have more than us. Social scientists have named this phenomenon as “Keeping up with the Joneses” after the famous comic of the early 20th century by Arthur P. Momand. This theory suggests that we start comparing ourselves and our living standards with those of our neighbours, of our peers.

There is a paradox ingrained in this phenomenon which supports that even if we improve our standard of living, we simply change the benchmark of comparison. This becomes an endless loop whereby we are never satisfied with what we have. The underlying characteristic, or better yet the characteristic which lacks and thus enables this, is gratitude.

Research by Froh, Sefick, Emmons (2008) suggests that grateful kids between the ages of 11-13 tend to be happier, more optimistic, and have better social support. They also report more satisfaction with their schools, families, communities, friends, and most importantly themselves.

Once we learn how to be grateful then we develop the vision and clarity to show empathy and compassion for others who are not as lucky as we are or who do not have the same opportunities as we do. In short, gratitude is both practically and ethically valuable and the necessary starting point for developing a healthy sense of sociability. Some of the advantages of gratitude are:

  • Gratitude is good for the kids: Brain research shows that positive emotions are good for our brains.
  • One positive emotion brings more positive emotions: When we express gratitude, we feel good and feeling good makes us happy. Gratitude diverts our attention away from negativity and reduces feelings of envy and jealousy.
  • Positivity opens up possibilities: Positive emotions boost our ability to learn, make good decisions but also be confident in ourselves that we can try and achieve new things.
  • Gratitude improves relationships: when you express your appreciation for the people around you, it will help strengthen your relationship with them. It creates bonds, builds trust and helps you solidify relationships in the family, at school, with friends etc.

There are four principles to teaching gratitude:

  • Notice- First you need to encourage children to notice or identify gratitude; for example, a good deed done for them.
  • Think- Then children have to start thinking about it in terms of why someone did that for them or why they deserve it, or even why they did what they did (intention).
  • Feel- Make children reflect on their emotions vis-à-vis the good deed or the thing they were given. Did they feel excited, calm, proud, happy?
  • Do- Encourage them to think of what they can do to show appreciation and gratitude. In other words, show them how to act in order to express their gratitude.

There are dozens of specific ways to teach your kids gratitude, ranging from such things as journals and diaries to dinner table discussions. You might need to engage in some trial-and-error in order to discover which best works for your children. Nonetheless, we ought to teach children from a young age to be grateful for what they have, without of course making them complacent. As it should be clear by now, gratitude is a variable in the “equation” of happiness.  By teaching your children how to be grateful then you are also helping your child to gain a vital ally in their struggle for psychological well-being.

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