by Patrick Gaffney

“In some communities, specifically among the white middle and upper-middle class, there’s good reason to believe that kids are less grateful than in the past,” says psychologist Richard Weissbourd, faculty director of the Making Caring Common initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  He places much of the blame on the self-esteem movement.

A growing body of research points to the many psychological and social benefits of regularly counting your blessings.  The good news for parents:  It also suggests that it’s never too late for their children to learn the subtle joys of appreciating the good in their lives.  Gratitude can be cultivated at any age, whether it finds expression as a mood, a social emotion or a personality trait.

Researchers find that people with a grateful disposition are more thankful for a wider variety of things in their lives, such as their friends, their health, nature, their jobs or a higher power – and that they experience feelings of gratitude more intensely.  For them, gratitude isn’t a one-off “thank you.”  It’s a mind-set, a way of seeing the world.

Most of the research on the benefits of gratitude has been focused on adults, but researchers are now turning their attention to how gratitude can better the lives of children, too.  They’re finding that the experience of high levels of gratitude in the adolescent years can set a child up to thrive.

Gratitude initiates what researchers call an “upward spiral of positive emotions.”  Adolescents who rate higher in gratitude tend to be happier and more engaged at school, as compared with their less grateful peers, and to give and receive more social support from family and friends. They also tend to experience fewer depressive symptoms and less anxiety, and they are less likely to exhibit antisocial behavior, such as aggression.

Counting your blessings may provide a built-in coping strategy, as research among adults suggests.  Grateful people experience daily hassles and annoyances just like everyone else, but they tend to view setbacks through a different lens, reframing challenges in a positive light.

Grateful adolescents enjoy stronger relationships with their peers, in part perhaps because their positive disposition makes them more attractive and likable.  In a 2015 study published in the journal Emotion, researchers conducted an experiment with 70 undergraduate students.  They found that acquaintances were more likely to want to stay in touch with a student who expressed gratitude toward them (in writing) than students who didn’t show appreciation.  Grateful students were perceived by peers as having a warmer personality and being more friendly and thoughtful.

The research points to several ways that parents can help children to think gratefully.  Parents can spur their children to appreciate and reflect on the time and thought behind the gifts and kindness they receive, as in: “Jack really knows how much you love football.  How thoughtful that he gave you a jersey of your favorite team” or “Wow, Grandma just took a five-hour train ride to come and see you perform in that play.”

For some parents, a good starting point is simply to set a better example themselves.  It’s also important for children – and adults – to notice and acknowledge the larger circle of people who benefit their lives, like the school secretary or janitor, says Dr. Weissbourd.1

1 This blog was taken from:  Wallace, Jennifer Breheny.  “How to Raise More Grateful Children”.  The Wall Street Journal.  Feb 23rd 2018.  Retrieved from: