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Teaching Your Child Gratitude is Slightly Selfish

Teach your child gratitude

I can accept that parenting my kids can be a thankless job; however, watching them respond (or not respond) to others’ kindnesses can really put me on edge. I practically hold my breath when their gratitude is slow to show up. Those two little words, “thank you,” sure can be a relief to hear. While gratitude certainly leaves the person on the receiving end feeling good, there are also amazing benefits to the physical, social and psychological health of the gratitude giver. So, if you came here to read about helping others feel appreciated because it’s polite and kind, then let me stop you right there. This blog is really about revealing something supposedly altruistic as also self-serving– the other reasons to teach your child gratitude.

What is gratitude?

Robert Emmons suggests that gratitude is about both affirming goodness and turning our gaze outward. Specifically, he suggests that gratitude includes “recognizing that one has obtained a positive outcome… and that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.” This might include gratitude for something nature-made, a chance occurence (“thanking my lucky stars”), a gift from God, or from the people around us.

As Emmons goes on to clarify, gratitude also “requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” What I love about this explanation is that it’s in support of community care and not just self care. That means showing up for each other and truly embodying the it-takes-a-village mentality to raising children. I am a firm believer that caring for oneself is critical. Yet, I have also felt strongly that parents can feel a lot of shame and isolation when the prevailing message is about self care without also emphasizing community.

Gratitude is also complex. It is defined as a disposition or trait, as well as a mood with daily fluctuations or a temporary emotion such as feeling gratitude immediately after receiving a gift. Yet, it’s not just for humans. Gratitude is felt by several species of animals. For example, some animals may help another at a cost to themselves because they understand, instinctually, that they may be on the receiving end of a favor at a later date.

Why is gratitude important? 

Here’s where this blog will really cater to those selfish needs! There are so many ways that being grateful and/or showing gratitude will serve the gratitude giver! Gratitude is associated with:

  • Better physical health. For example, various studies have linked gratitude to better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammation.
  • Better psychological health. Studies have linked gratitude to less depression, less envy and better resilience after a traumatic event.
  • Better social health. Research also suggests that individuals who demonstrate higher levels of gratitude are more socially integrated and have better social support. Researchers have described gratitude as a sort of “social glue.”
  • Better life satisfaction. Research suggests that more grateful adolescents are more interested and satisfied with their school lives, more engaged in schoolwork and hobbies, and less materialistic.

4 Fun Activities that Teach Your Child Gratitude

Parenting is so much easier when you don’t have children. (Yup, let that sink in.) Yet, finding ways to teach your child gratitude can be really enjoyable. It is true that more dispositionally grateful parents have more grateful children. It’s safe to assume that these parents may be modeling gratitude. We also know that these parents are more likely to place their children in situations that might evoke feelings of gratitude, such as volunteering for people in need. In addition to modeling gratitude here are other fun ways to support gratitude. 

  • Gratitude Jar: The gratitude jar is a great way to catch each other in shining moments and to revel in those positive moments. Quite simply, you and your family members track daily at least one positive action of each family member. You write it and collect it in a jar and then review it together as a family. It helps family members to refocus attention, particularly if you’ve been in a slump with these family members.
  • Gratitude Tales: Telling stories that elicit gratitude or demonstrate an example of gratitude can be a great conversation starter. For example, Aesop’s “Androcles and the Lion” shares the concept of “reciprocal altruism.” That is the idea that Androcles’ kindnesgratitude journals to the injured lion is paid back when the lion later spares Androcles life. There are many other similar stories as well!
  • Gratitude Letter. The concept includes writing a letter to people you’ve never properly thanked and then delivering the letter. This particular concept was first studied by the founder of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman. The effects of the gratitude letter can last more than a month for the writer, particularly when the writer is mature, such as an adolescent or adult.
  • Gratitude Journaling. You can also incorporate a regular practice of documenting the moments that evoke gratitude. If you prefer specific prompts for each day of journaling, check out 30 days of gratitude for daily prompts to last a month.

If you’re looking for more ideas, try Big Life Journal’s printable gratitude challenges for children!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, professional trainings, and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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An Attitude of Gratitude for the Whole Family

Halloween is over and November has arrived. With it comes cooler days, longer nights and the winter holiday season rapidly approaching. This time of year, many of us struggle with feeling there is too much to do and too little time! We may have the desire to have a joyful, relaxed approach to the holidays, yet find ourselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed and even Grinch-like-irritable. If you’re looking for ways to embrace the holiday season with a deeper feeling of joy and connection consider a gratitude practice. 

Research on gratitude shows that people who practice gratitude are happier. How does it work? Basically it’s a way of re-focusing our attention.

Gratitude supports us to focus on what we have, rather than getting stuck on comparisons to others or on what we think might make us happy at some point in the future. 

There are many ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for both children and adults, including writing a thank you note to someone who has contributed positively to your life or keeping a gratitude journal. This year I would like to recommend a family activity. 

A Family Attitude of Gratitude… In a Jar!

Step One: Get your supplies together. As a family, decide on some sort of container to which you’ll all be adding slips of paper for the next few weeks. Gather some small pieces of paper or post-it notes.

Step Two: Find a spot. The home for your gratitude jar should be very visible and accessible to all so that each family member can join in.

Step Three: Choose your time frame. Pick a date to start (maybe Thanksgiving) and a date to end (perhaps the last day of Hanukkah or Christmas day).

Step Four: Let the attitude of gratitude commence. Encourage all family members to write down daily something they are grateful for and why. Consider and encourage writing things you are grateful for that happen within your family. For example, I was grateful when Jimmy offered to load the dishwasher without being asked BECAUSE it gave me a few moments to take a deep breath and relax. On the agreed upon last day, take time to read the gratitude notes out loud as a family. 

Step Five Enjoy. Take a deep breath and notice how you feel!

 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director at Intuition Wellness Center

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30 Days of Gratitude!

There are a few of us here at Intuition who simply cannot resist a good-natured competition. So with a joyful spirit and plenty of determination, we are taking a gratitude challenge and we invite you to join us!

Beginning on November 1st, our team members invite you to our 30-day journaling challenge that will use these easy prompts from textmyjournal.com as inspiration.

 

30 Days of Gratitude Journaling Prompts

  1. What smell are you grateful for today?
  2. What technology are you grateful for?
  3. What color are you grateful for?
  4. What food are you most grateful for?
  5. What sound are you grateful for today?
  6. What in nature are you grateful for?
  7. What memory are you grateful for?
  8. What book are you most grateful for?
  9. What place are you most grateful for?
  10. What taste are you grateful for today?
  11. What holiday are you grateful for?
  12. What texture are you grateful for?
  13. What abilities are you grateful for?
  14. What sight are you grateful for today?
  15. What season are you grateful for?
  16. What about your body are you grateful for?
  17. What knowledge are you grateful for?
  18. What piece of art are you grateful for?
  19. What touch are you grateful for today?
  20. Who in your life are you grateful for?
  21. What song are you most grateful for?
  22. What story are you grateful for?
  23. What tradition are you grateful for?
  24. What challenge are you grateful for?
  25. What moment this week are you most grateful for?
  26. What form of expression are you most grateful for?
  27. What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for?
  28. What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?
  29. What friend/family member are you grateful for today?
  30. What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for?

Why the focus on gratitude? Well, besides it being a natural fit to coincide with Thanksgiving festivities, gratitude has been studied extensively in recent years and, perhaps not surprisingly, an intentional practice of gratitude has lots of fantastic side effects, including happiness!

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At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image credit: Rory MacLeod

 

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