Can Grateful Children Be Raised?
I work with a lot of unhappy kids, many of them grappling with tough situations-sexual abuse, domestic violence, or divorce. I try to help kids not to be victims of their past, but rather take control of their lives. I like the quote that you should “… never put the keys to your happiness in someone else’s pocket. ” Gratitude training is not only useful for these kids, but is a powerful parenting technique to help raise happy children.
Raising Grateful Children In Four Steps
I like the four-step model used in the “Raising Grateful Children” project at the University of North Carolina.
- Notice. Wonderful things happen to us every day, but we often give them little attention. Think about a few nice things that happened to you today. Our lives are defined by daily acts of kindness and caring. Focusing on such experiences is this first step in developing a more grateful lifestyle.
This can be difficult for kids, many of whom are overwhelmed by past hurts. You can’t write a new chapter in your life if you remain consumed by yesterday’s tragedies. I ask youngsters to write down something good every day as a way to increase their mind fulness of positive experiences.
- Think. We often don’t notice life’s gifts because we expect them and feel entitled to a certain lifestyle. There is no reason to feel grateful for something that you feel is owed to you.
One youngster told me how angry he was at his divorcing parents because it meant that they would no longer both attend his sporting events. Regardless of whether that was true, why should any child have such extraordinary unrealistic expectations? In this phase of therapy, I work to diminish kids’ expectations and entitlements.
- Feel. With more realistic expectations and a greater focus on positive events, kids can fully appreciate their lives. They reflect less upon their past pains. They become less whiny and pessimistic, and more thankful and hopeful.
With these changes in their thoughts and feelings, they advance to the final step in this process.
- Do. It’s critical to align what you do with how you think and feel. I ask kids to keep a journal of some grateful act they do every day. This may involve saying a kind word to a classmate or helping out at home. I combine this with the “no complaints” rule where I help kids develop the self control to avoid whining about things they don’t like.
Raise Grateful Children And Establish Family Traditions
You can do these same things with your children to help raise happy kids-manage expectations, correct a sense of entitlement, and establish family traditions where acts of gratitude and kindness are routine.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drgregramey. Dr. Ramey has been a guest contributor to the Ohio Family Blog since 2007.
[Reprinted by permission from the May 27, 2018, edition of the Dayton Daily News, “How to raise grateful children”, Gregory Ramey, Phd.]
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Guest Contributor Gregory Ramey, PhD, Child Psychologist and Dayton Daily News Columnist
Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a nationally recognized child psychologist and columnist who has worked at Dayton Children’s Hospital since 1979. In addition to his weekly column in the Dayton Daily News about effective parenting, Ramey has conducted more than 200 workshops and has recently been quoted in articles in Redbook, Parenting, Ladies Home Journal as well as columns distributed by the New York Times Wire Service.