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Most children today are not learning gratitude

Four in five parents of children between the ages of four and ten claim that kids today do not show enough gratitude, and do not appreciate what they have, according to a new national poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at University of Michigan Health. Over half of the parents worried that they give their children too much, and two in five said they feel embarrassed by how selfish their children often act.

“Many parents may look back to their own childhood and, in comparison, wonder if they are giving their child too much in the way of material things. Parents may have watched their child behave selfishly, such as refusing to share with other children or saying they don’t like a particular gift,” said the Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark.

“We know that gratitude is associated with more positive emotions, having strong relationships, enjoying more experiences and even health benefits. However, gratitude is not something that children usually acquire automatically; it needs to be nurtured, in an age-appropriate way,” she added.

Some of the ways in which parents can teach their children gratitude include: making “thank you” a regular phrase, in contexts when the children receive gifts, such as birthdays or holidays; talking about gratitude on a daily basis; contributing to family chores in order to learn that family members have a responsibility to help each other; volunteering to help their larger, extra-familial communities, such as their neighborhoods, schools, or places of worship; and donating toys, clothes, or even parts of their allowances to charities.

“Parents who place a high priority on teaching their child gratitude are more likely to report their children exhibit behaviors associated with thankfulness and a willingness to give to others,” Clark said.

“While Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to give thanks, parents can teach and model kindness and gratitude throughout the year. Over time and through experiences, children will learn to be grateful for others and appreciate what they have,” she concluded.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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