gratitude  noun

grat·​i·​tude| \ˈgra-tə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

 

Definition of gratitude 

: the state of being grateful : THANKFULNESS //expressed gratitude for their support

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

The day before Thanksgiving is a good day to test the “attitude of gratitude” in our children. It takes some work on parents’ part to instill it and that work is not always easy, writes pediatrician Dr. Nicole Baldwin. In fact, it takes a bit of practice during family together-time to incorporate gratitude in a young person’s character:

I think most parents can agree that we want to raise kind, loving, compassionate children who live happy and fulfilled lives (aka NOT grumpy jerks) but we don’t always know how to go about it. Stick with me – I’m here to offer some help for just that.

You might be wondering why practicing gratitude can be the cure for grumpiness. It might seem crazy – but I promise I’m not making this up. People who practice gratitude regularly are happier and report more satisfaction in their lives. Studies have shown that the gratitude exercises that I’m going to tell you about actually work!

 

No one likes a grumpy jerk and no parent wants to raise one, either. But as Dr. Baldwin gently reminds us, that’s kind of how we all get our start:

Here’s the rub…being a “jerk” is actually pretty easy while being grateful is not always quite as easy. Only thinking about MY wants and MY needs comes very naturally. In fact – it’s how we’re born.

Think about it – newborns are pretty much the most selfish humans on the planet. They cry to get what THEY want. They don’t care that you haven’t slept in 36 hours or showered in 5 days…they are hungry and demand that you feed them…they are wet and scream until you change their diaper. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that newborns are jerks (well not ALL the time…just kidding), but what I AM suggesting is that being grateful is something that needs to be TAUGHT and PRACTICED throughout our lives – it’s not a trait that is born in us.

Gratitude is a CHOICE. In any situation, we can chose to be grateful – to look for the positive – or we can chose to focus on the negative. In order to raise grateful children, they need to be taught HOW to make that choice.

 

For kids to display gratitude in their everyday lives, they first need to learn it. Dr. Baldwin tells parents how to teach it:

1.  TEACH YOUR CHILDREN MANNERS – one of the most important (and easiest) ways to teach gratitude is to teach your children to say PLEASE, THANK YOU, and YOU’RE WELCOME…

2.  TEACH GRATITUDE EXERCISES – these can be done at the end of every day, in the morning before breakfast, or around the dinner table. Mix them up…

3.  PRACTICE GRATITUDE YOURSELF – our children learn best by what they SEE us doing and not just what they HEAR us telling them to do…

4.  VOLUNTEER AS A FAMILY OR DONATE FOOD/CLOTHING TO A LOCAL SHELTER – especially for young children who only really know the world as their tiny bubble, it’s important that we teach them about helping those less fortunate. This is a great way to help kids learn to be grateful for what they already have as well as teaching them the importance of giving to others.

 

Dr. Baldwin gives great examples of exercises that will help instill the attitude of gratitude in your children and make you a proud mom and dad every day. Read more in “Don’t Raise a Grumpy Jerk (or How to Teach Your Children to Have an Attitude of Gratitude)” by Dr. Nicole Baldwin on her excellent blogConfessions of a “Type A” Dr. Mom, here.

 

(While you are bookmarking Dr. Nicole Baldwin’s blog to your browser’s favorites list, also visit and follow We Are Pediatricians on Facebook and see what other pediatricians around the country are writing about.)