Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Teaching Gratefulness

Kingman counting his profits after vending at a holiday party.  Note the disappointed expression.  His sales were not what he expected.  A good time for a gratitude reminder you think?

At least once a month Kingman asks when are we getting a new car.  Our blessed car was gifted to us and has over 250,000 miles on it.  I gently remind Kingman that we are grateful to have a car that is paid for and still working when we drive past people standing at a rainy bus stop.  Immediately, his perception changes to one of complete understanding.  Apparently, taking these moments to redirect our children's perceptions can have lasting positive effects, according to Christine Carter, Ph.D, a sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.  Carter recently wrote about this topic on her blog in a post entitled Gratitude vs. Materialism. The article goes on to say that "materialistic folks tend to be dissatisfied with their lives, have low self-esteem, be less integrated into their community, find less meaning in life, and be less concerned about the welfare of others."  For children this translates into being more likely to do poorly in school, be at greater risk for depression, unhappiness and anxiety and feeling less connected to their community.  Who knew materialism could be this harmful?! Dr. Carter suggests that when we help our children learn to focus more on the positive, there is less time to focus on the negative.  More importantly, according to Dr. Carter grateful children and teens are much happier. "They get higher grades, are more satisfied with their lives, are more integrated socially (e.g., they feel like they are a significant part of their communities), and they are more likely to experience flow in their activities. They show fewer signs of depression. Grateful teens also tend to feel less envy," she wrote.  I used to have Kingman practice his cursive handwriting by writing in this Grateful journal.  We'll be picking that practice up again starting today.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I am constantly trying to find ways to help my children be more grateful. During the holiday season, I have decided to look for more opportunities for them to volunteer. Hopefully seeing others less fortunate will help them realize how much they take for granted. I have also recognized is that I, as a parent, need to model gratefulness in my everyday life. Sometimes easier said than done.

  2. Amen! Being thankful keeps me from crying on some days.

  3. Love this post, Monica! You are such a great writer and capture the essence of such an important lesson for our children. Within this context, we are always reinforcing to children how fortunate they are to have family, friends, healthy food, and access to a good education. Khafren particularly likes a song by KRS-1 (dad's influence) called "HOLD" that addresses putting our needs before our wants. Have Zion check it out on youtube? Thanks again for sharing great wisdom and helping to reinforce the daily challenges of raising healthy Black males in our time...