Gratitude is the quality of being thankful or in other words, the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It is vital to learn the concept and importance of gratitude in the first few years of life because research has proven that a feeling of gratitude is directly related to the happiness levels of the human brain.
In 2003, scientists studied the relationship between gratitude and the subjective wellbeing of children. In this study, the researchers measured the brain activity of participants experiencing different emotions and found that expressing gratitude causes a synchronized activation in multiple brain regions. In short, gratitude can boost the production of happy hormones in the human body.
In 2009, multiple studies further corroborated that a moment of gratitude has a significant influence on the basic metabolic rate of children and adults. It not only brings rhythm in daily brain activities like eating or sleeping but also brings down the stress levels. Gratitude and happiness go hand-in-hand and helps you stay positive.
From such pieces of evidence about gratitude and happiness on human brain functioning, it is very clear that higher levels of gratitude have a direct impact on the overall wellbeing of children and therefore parents, should know and follow certain strategies to inculcate gratitude among children and teach them the importance of gratitude.
Gratitude functions in a three-step formula which starts with awareness of feeling and ends in behavioural expression. Parents are found to focus on the behavioural aspect of gratitude like, say thank you to your friend for the lovely gift, wave bye-bye to guests etc. But, expressing gratitude is best experienced when a child is well aware of the feeling and knows the “why” behind it.
So, instead of focusing on guiding your child’s behaviour, kindly focus on the moment. Gratitude is best taught when such moments are captured wisely by adults in the family and they tend to put words to feelings. These moments are happening all around us and can be very simply put in the child’s ears. For example, Oh! I am so thankful for a bright sunny day today. I was bored of rains by now! Or, I am happy that I could reach in time for a meeting. Thanks to daddy for helping me pack my lunch.
To summarise, gratitude is not only an integral part of positive behavioural practices but also leads to emotional stability and wellbeing in children. The best way to teach gratitude is through modelling. So, parents dear, practice gratitude and always express it with a reason (Why are you thankful?). Let us start it now. Complete the sentence please:
I am feeling grateful today because……………………………..
Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being
Article (PDF Available) in Social Behavior and Personality An International Journal 31(5):431-451 · January 2003 with 6,334 Reads DOI: 10.2224/sbp.2003.31.5.431