What Does It Mean To Be Grateful

What are you grateful for? It’s a question that may bring to mind certain people in your life, things you have, and situations you find yourself in.  How often do you feel or express this gratitude?  With our busy schedules of working and parenting, we may not focus on expressing gratitude (with of course no ill intent), but it is definitely something we should put into practice.  As parents, we want our children to grow up with an appreciation for all that is given to them as well as all that is done for them, and not grow up with a sense of entitlement.  We want them to appreciate the blessings in their lives. We hope that through it all, they are able to feel and express gratitude.  Research consistently shows that the key to lifelong success is gratitude.  Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D., associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University, writes that grateful kids are happier, more satisfied with their relationships and school experiences, and less depressed and less materialistic.
Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough are two of the leading American investigators of gratitude.  They describe gratitude as personality strength – the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted.  Emmons suggests “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great.  It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
Studies show that teaching children gratefulness not only makes them happier and more satisfied with their lives, but it might make them less likely to lash out at others who have hurt them.  Gratitude may help kids regulate their emotional response in a hurtful situation.  Teens who are more grateful have more self-control, and teaching gratitude right when identity is forming correlates with fewer reports of antisocial and delinquent behaviors during the teen years (Bono, Froh and Emmons, 2012).
From the time my sister and I were very young, my mother has always reminded us to appreciate and be grateful for what we have, including our surroundings.   Whenever we went on a road trip, she never failed to point out how beautiful the nature around us was.  As children, we would roll our eyes and say “here she goes again”, but as adults and mothers, we now understand her message.  She didn’t want us to take anything for granted.  And don’t think I don’t do the exact same thing when we get on the road.  I may not say it as often (I don’t want eye rolling in the back seat) but I do want to pass on the same lessons of gratefulness and appreciation to my children, be it for what someone has done for them or what is all around them.
You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to recognize the contributions of others to the good things that are happening in your life, and it’s never too soon to teach gratitude and appreciation to our children.  A simple expression of gratitude goes a long way.