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Some months ago, I was working from a coffee shop and there were three teens sitting a couple of tables away from me. They initially piqued my interest because I had just heard the news reader on the radio talk about schools being closed for winter break and they had high school textbooks out on their table. What captured my full attention, however, was a conversation about iPhones.

“I told Mama that I don’t care if she has to buy it on account or use her whole pay but I’m not going to school next term if I don’t have the latest iPhone” said one of the teens.

As her friends emphatically co-signed this ludacris ultimatum, I found myself taking deep breaths and physically restraining myself from allowing my reflexes to kick in. It literally took everything in me to not unleash a verbal tirade about gratitude. 

In a world where children feel entitled to phones worth R30 000+, how does gratitude fit into the equation? Should we even bother to instil a sense of gratitude in a world of social media induced “abundance”?

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

— John F. Kennedy

How Gratitude Impacts Our Lives.

In 2011 the Psychological Assessment published a study that showed that teens between the ages of 14 – 19 who lived a lifestyle of gratitude seemed to exhibit less envious and materialistic traits and were more engaged in their communities, schoolwork, and hobbies. The study also showed that they were less likely to struggle with depression.

It was also discovered that people who exhibit and live out gratitude are less likely to respond to people who are aggressive, unkind, or who have wronged them. Another study showed that a lifestyle of gratitude also impacts people’s physical ailments such as aches and pains and those who scored higher on the gratitude scale were more intentional about carving out time for self-care and seemed to:

  • Be more satisfied with life.
  • Less likely to experience burnout.
  • Better sleepers.
  • Less fatigue.
  • Show lower levels of cellular inflammation.
  • Greater resiliency.
  • Enhance their development of patience, humility, and wisdom.

Ways To Instil a Lifestyle of Gratitude in Your Children.

  • Model Behaviour: The best and most effective way to teach children is to model the behaviour and habits you want them to value and emulate. Research shows that parents who live a lifestyle of gratitude are more likely to raise children who are grateful.

Every evening around the dinner table or as you put your children to bed, introduce a practice of gratitude by sharing things that you’re personally grateful for on that day and if you’ve had a rough day, tell them. That way your children will learn that our life’s circumstances do not impact our ability to be grateful. 

  • Thank You: While teaching your child to say thank you may seem obvious and minuscule it is foundational in teaching your child gratitude.

“So even if it doesn’t seem like genuine appreciation when your child needs a reminder, encouraging them to verbally express appreciation can be an important learning tool for genuine gratitude down the line.” says psychotherapist Amy Morin.

Once children get into the habit of regularly saying “thank you” you can start having more meaningful conversations to expand their understanding of the importance and power of gratitude.

  • Gratitude Walk: Kill three birds with one stone, (yes, we know the saying is two). Going on an afternoon or evening walk with the family will not only create an opportunity for you to bond as a family, get some exercise but also practice gratitude.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a paper about the transformative impact of gratitude on children between the ages of 5 to 19 and they found that instilling a lifestyle of gratitude from a very young age significantly helps children grow to become happier adults. A lifestyle of gratitude has also been shown to lessen stress and increase a sense of belonging in your child.

Clearly cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude is not only beneficial for your children’s wellbeing, but it’s a practice that everyone in your family benefits from spiritually, mentally, and physically.

We would love to hear how living a lifestyle of gratitude has impacted yours and your family’s life.

Let us know in the comments below and don’t miss next week’s parenting post where we will be talking about the benefits of introducing your little ones to a daily practice of affirmation and how affirmation increases one’s sense of gratitude.

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