How to Raise Grateful Grandkids

Teaching kids to be to be thankful can have a lasting effect on their level of happiness, grades, friendships, and more.

By Ellen Breslau

Part of being a grandparent is spoiling your grandkids, right? Especially around the holidays and birthdays, it's easy to go overboard with gifts. But one of the most important gifts you can give your grandkids is gratitude. Research has shown that kids who practice gratitude are "more satisfied with their lives, have stronger peer and family relationships, have higher GPAs, and are less depressed," says Jeffrey Froh, an associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University and leading researcher on kids and gratitude. "And the thing about gratitude is, you can learn it at any age." So whether your grandkids are three or 13, you can teach them to be appreciative.

One obstacle that often stands in the way: our fast-paced, "I-want-it-now" lifestyle. "We are constantly pulled in so many directions and so many stimuli take us out of the moment," says Froh, who is coauthor of Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character. "One of the best ways to become more grateful is to slow down—immediacy and gratitude do not go together." When you slow down, you can process things and savor them, whether it's a family night out or a conversation at the dinner table. Savoring things and being mindful bring feelings of gratitude.

Here, four other things Froh suggests you can do to teach grandkids about gratitude:

1. Set limits on gifts - It's always fun to give your grandkids presents, but do it within reason. "My wife found a great guide that says, 'Get one thing they need, some things to read, one thing they want, and some things to wear,'" says Froh. That way you limit toys and play up more important items like books and clothing. Another thing to consider: give the gift of experiences, such as going to the movies together or taking kids on a day trip, instead of giving toys. "Experiences are a hundred times better," says Froh. Kids can remember experiences forever and get happiness from them in both the short- and long-term. "With experiences kids can savor the past by reminiscing by how great the vacation was, savor the present by being mindful in the moment while it's happening, and savor the future by anticipating the vacation to come," says Froh.

2. Model good behavior - It may be obvious, but this often gets overlooked, says Froh: Show kids what a grateful person look like and does. "Let them see you be generous, include them in it," he says. You can do this by making sure kids see you thanking friends and family members when they do something nice for you. When you write thank you notes, read them to kids, and let kids know how important the act was. 

 Froh sugests using the following three-step approach when modeling good behavior:

  • Show the intent - If a friend, for example, comes over to help you fix something in your home, explain to your grandchildren that your friend made a choice and went out of their way to do something nice for you.
  • Show the cost - Perhaps the friend missed a show they really wanted to see on television. Explain to your grandkids that the person put helping you above doing something for themselves.
  • Show the benefit - "Talk about to what degree you benefited from the kind act," says Froh. Perhaps the friend's help saved you money, or time. 

You can also point out kind acts your grandkids have received. "You can say, 'Hey James, wasn't it nice for Ryan to come over and help you with your math? He gave up going to soccer practice, even though he loves it, and he really helped you,'" says Froh.

3. Volunteer - Doing community service allows kids to see people who are less fortunate and puts kids' own lives into perspective. It also gives kids an opportunity to be generous by reaching out to others and offering help. "This is a way for kids to to create and strengthen relationships, and that is the number one way to make grateful kids," says Froh. He also points out that when kids are generous, they start to fully appreciate what goes into being generous and the choices people make in helping others.

4. Ask kids what they are grateful for - Part of understanding gratitude is talking about it. If your grandkids do an overnight at your house, bedtime is ther perfect quiet time to ask them to name three things they are grateful for. This will get them thinking about how much they have and how lucky they are. You can also buy a notebook and give it to them as a gratitude journal, where they can jot down people, places, and things that they appreciate. 

Comments

Just checking out slight change in name...

RoseRed135 on 2016-04-01 04:16:45

testing...

RoseRed135 on 2016-04-01 04:15:55

This is good. I like the idea of volunteering and adding my granddaughter to the experience. She lives far away and I don't see her frequently. Also, she can't have pets, which she would love! So I think the next time she comes we will donate some things to the local animal shelter. And, every time she comes we will do the same. She will love it!! So will I.

dauerhammer@gmail.com on 2016-01-11 22:22:12

Excellent list. I would expand the Volunteer section to include other volunteer causes beyond helping people less fortunate than themselves, worthy as that is. Maybe the benefit is more for bonding than for gratitude, but sharing a cause with a grandchild is very powerful. For instance, one of our granddaughters is obsessed with cats, but had a bad experience with a shelter cat. Volunteering at a (good) shelter with her will be wonderful this summer. And it's not just housecats for her; we have a great nonprofit headquartered here in Santa Fe (http://www.wildearthguardians.org) that works to protect carnivores, including cougars and panthers and bobcats, and we'll be investigating what opportunities there are for adult/child volunteering there too.

modza@comcast.net on 2015-12-31 14:05:12