Gratitude in an Unappreciative World

Dr. Kristi Smith, Director of Education & Training   •   November 7, 2018

grat • i • tude   noun
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
Synonyms: gratefulness, thankfulness, thanks, appreciation, indebtedness
"He expressed his gratitude to his sister for doing his chore by saying thank you and helping her take out the trash."
What does gratitude look like? Gratitude is one of the most misunderstood emotions and attitudes. When searching for images of "grateful children," I was shocked to find image after image of children smiling while receiving gifts or children reverently praying. While both images are heartwarming, they do not reflect the depth of what it is to be grateful. Research has shown that after opening more than three gifts at a time, a child loses appreciation for all of the gifts. Unfortunately, most adults do not know the difference between thankfulness and gratitude. So, how are children supposed to learn the character trait of gratitude when the adults around them do not fully understand what it is to be grateful?
Let's look into what it truly means to be grateful. Gratefulness is more than an attitude of being thankful. The second part of the description of gratitude contains the real clue to what it looks like to be grateful. Gratefulness is the action of showing appreciation for kindness. An appreciation for kindness is followed by some sort of response, whether verbal or physical.

An "attitude of gratitude" can become a character trait of your child by daily playing a simple "game." Each morning tell your child to "look for an attitude of gratitude." Teach them that when they see kindness, to show appreciation by a small action. It is true that character is not taught, but caught—so, make sure that you model and talk about small actions of gratitude such as giving a warm hug when someone helps you with a chore, writing a note of appreciation, or helping someone in return. At a certain time of the day, whether it’s at pick-up time or dinner, help your child share how they showed gratitude that day. Make sure that you talk about how the recipient felt.
The benefit of the "attitude of gratitude" game is that the focus shifts to communicating an appreciative response instead of a self-centered thank you. Articles from researchers and authors such as Arthur C. Brooks and Angeles Arrien, on the left sidebar, document that gratitude has monumental benefits for all. Gratitude is linked with happiness and has a positive impact on the world for future generations. So, who is ready to play "attitude of gratitude" and have a happier family?
Character Values Count
Children's Lighthouse staff is dedicated to teaching the value of helpfulness through example in our early learning schools. Character values have direct ties with our proprietary Lighthouse C.A.R.E.S.℠ curriculum in our local childcare centers and are incorporated into our classrooms through curriculum units such as cooperation, helping others, showing kindness, expressing gratitude, and recognizing and accepting differences. These qualities are central to our educational philosophy in each of our early learning schools.
When people in great numbers choose to practice, integrate, and embody gratitude, the cumulative force that is generated can help create the kind of world we all hope for and desire, for ourselves and for future generations.