Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude

Question

Our son is a good young man but, like many of his friends, he tends to take his blessings and the kindness of others for granted and he rarely expresses appreciation.  How can we help him learn the value of being grateful and expressing thanks?

Answer

The best starting please is to let him know what it is and why it is important.  Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and includes a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness to others.

What difference does it make?  An increasing body of research is demonstrating that practicing gratitude is associated with increased levels of energy, optimism, empathy, well-being and happiness and leads to healthier relationships.

Gratitude is something that is best “caught” but it can also be “taught.”   According to a study published in School Psychology Review, a group of 122 elementary school kids were taught a week long course around giving gratitude. Their training translated into action: 44% of the kids in the course opted to write thank-you notes when given the choice following a PTA presentation, while only 25% in the control group wrote notes.

We now know that gratitude works like a muscle, the more you do it the more you can and want to do it.  The first and simplest step is to practice giving thanks to God.  Bible passages including Psalms 100: 3-4, Ephesians 1:16 and 5:20, talk about giving thanks to God.

The second step involves giving thanks to others.

What’s it like for him when his friends take his kindness for granted and never say thanks.

Gratitude is more than an attitude.  A key part of helping our kids grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord involves helping them cultivate the attitude and action of gratitude.

The best expressions of gratitude aren’t just vague and general.  When you say “thanks” be sure to say “for” and then be specific about WHAT you’re thankful for and WHY it meant something to you.  This is a simple and invaluable habit to cultivate.

For example, don’t just write a note saying, “Thanks for the nice gift” but mention what the gift was and why you liked it and how you might use it.  Being specific makes in more fun for you and more meaningful for the other person.

Here are some other ways many parents have helped their kids cultivate the attitude and action of gratitude:

Have a 5-minute “Count Your Blessings” time before prayer where each person shares just one thing they’re grateful and why they’re grateful for it.

Leave at least one sticky note a day with a family or friend thanking them for something.

See who can come up with the “smallest” thing to be thankful for.

It might something that happened to you or something that you have that perhaps you’ve taken for granted.

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