Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gratitude part 2: an article.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gratitude part 2: an article.
Current mood: tired

This is an article that was sent to a yahoo group I'm in, and it directly relates to some of my earlier blog post today. I thought I'd reprint it here for you.

Hearth & Soul
Jean G. Fitzpatrick

How Kids Learn Gratitude
There are simple ways to cultivate your child's natural thankfulness.

Moments of thankfulness open our hearts to joy, fill us with peace,
connect us to those around us. They help us feel blessed.

Recently, scientists have been taking a closer look at how positive
emotions affect us. Barbara Fredrickson, for example, a psychology
professor at the University of Michigan, has found that cultivating
gratitude may actually undo the effects of negative emotions such as
anger and anxiety.
Too often, though, when we try to teach our children thankfulness we
go about it in surprisingly negative ways. We wait until moments when
we're worried we have spoiled them for life. "You ought to be grateful
for all the stuff you have," we tell them angrily after we have
tripped over their toys for the 10th time.

Or we teach thankfulness as "reverse envy." I once heard a
particularly grumpy Sunday school teacher lead a class in a prayer
that was a classic of the genre. "Thank you, Jesus, for all the things
we have," she said dourly, as her class of kindergartners bowed their
heads, hands folded. "Because we know that there are so many other
children who have no parents and no toys and no clothes and no nice
house." The underlying idea here is that we ought to value our
possessions because others don't have them--an approach more likely to
inspire guilt than gratitude.

The reverse-envy approach was studied by researchers at Southern
Methodist University and the University of California at Davis, using
three groups of volunteers. One group kept a daily log of five hassles
or complaints. The second group wrote down five ways in which they
thought they were better off than their peers. And the third group
wrote down five things each day for which they were grateful.

After three weeks, those in the group who kept gratitude lists
reported having more energy, fewer health problems, and a greater
feeling of well-being than those who complained or gloated.

What's the best way to help children experience the heart-expanding
effects of gratitude?
Here are some simple ways to help children cultivate gratitude on a
daily basis.

Give thanks in prayer. Set aside a regular time for thank-you prayers,
before dinner or breakfast, or at bedtime. Give thanks for small
things--finding a colorful fall leaf on the driveway, getting over a
cold, seeing the dog do a funny thing. Young children are naturally
thankful, according to Montessori teacher Sofia Cavalletti. She writes
in "The Religious Potential of the Child," "The prayer of children
up to the age of seven or eight is almost exclusively prayer of
thanksgiving and praise."

Say thank you to your family. Research suggests that people are
actually more likely to express their thanks to strangers or
acquaintances than to their own family members or peers, according to
the National Institute for Healthcare Research. But when parents show
appreciation to one another, to their children, and to other people in
their lives, children learn to do the same thing. When your child does
a household chore--even if it's one of his or her assigned tasks--say
thank you. When your partner does something considerate, express your

Slow down and smell the roses. Babies and toddlers are fascinated by
sights and sounds and smells, from the color red to a ringing bell to
cookies in the oven. The older we get, the more oblivious we become to
the everyday sensory pleasures of the world we live in. When we pause
to enjoy them, we regain the openness that is an essential part of
gratitude. Make sure your child doesn't spend so much time with
electronic entertainment that he or she misses out on the tactile joys
of flowers, plants, crayons, paint, music, and dancing.

Create a year-round thanksgiving spot. This is a home altar of sorts.
Find a convenient but safe place--the refrigerator door, a bulletin
board, or a small table or shelf. Make this a special spot for things
you are thankful for--pictures of people you love, souvenirs and
memorabilia, handmade treasures, and, of course, your child's artwork.
Invite your child to add his or her own items, and set aside time now
and then to admire the objects and pictures together.

Teach your child to write thank-you notes. Even if kids write them on
a computer, thank-you notes means more when they specifically mention
the gift and say something appreciative about it. Writing thank-you
notes to coaches, teachers, baby-sitters, neighbors, clergy, and other
caring adults helps a child appreciate all the people who care about
him or her (and it's a nice antidote to the complaints most adults hear).

Keep a gratitude journal. One way to help your child develop
thankfulness is to cultivate it in yourself. In a notebook, write down
three to five things you're thankful for every day. Keep the focus
small and specific--give thanks for a child's patience during a long
wait, for a pan of brownies that turned out well, for a good joke
someone told at lunch. You may wish to share the journal with your child.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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