Thoughts on Families and Gratitude

Last year I attended a workshop on helping parents change their children’s behavior called Parent Management Training.  It was offered by the Child Conduct Clinic at Yale University, and it taught an approach developed of thirty years of practice and research with real families.  The first two things I learned to teach parents in Parent Coaching are to be clear and calm when asking the child to do something and tho thank her promptly and enthusiastically when she complies.  In fact, I ask parents to be prompt and enthusiastic in thanking their children for whatever they do that they were asked to.

I have been amazed at how this simple, yet profound, adjustment sweetens family life.  We all love to be appreciated.  And it feels good to be grateful.  Parents are then in a stronger position to address the behavior problems that remain.  An attitude of gratitude is simply therapeutic all around.

Recently, I came across a quote by Melody Beattie from her book, The Language of Letting Go, on gratitude.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It tuns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

In fact, psychologists have recently found data to support the concept that gratitude does more than simply make us feel better.  it is truly good for us.  As reported in The Boston Globe, psychologist David DeSteno, of Northeastern University found that subjects who were grateful for unexpected assistance after a frustrating task were more likely to be helpful to another subject.  DeSteno says, “Gratitude leads people to act in virtuous or more selfless ways.  And it builds social support, which we know is tied to both physical and psychological well being.  The article also quoted psycholgoist Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the Univeristy of California at Riverside, “If you don’t do it regularly, you’re not going to get the benefits.  it’s kind of like if you went to the gym once a year.  What would be the good of that?”

Parents’ expressions of gratitude, especially linked to desired behavior, improve children’s behavior and the relationship between parent and child.  And the consistent expression of gratitude is good for the parents’ well-being.  There’s more than enough good to go around here.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on Families and Gratitude”
  1. Martha Solish says:

    Thank you!!! for that wonderful reminder. It was very helpful.

  2. Sarah Gant says:

    During a group project meeting in graduate school, a Latina member of the group came in late following a hard day. She slumped into a chair and announced, “Blessings.” None of knew what this meant, and she was equally surprised that we had never encountered this lovely custom. She said that it was common for children in her culture to enter a room and say, “Blessings.” All the adults would then stop, focus on the child, and say a blessing or say why the child WAS a blessing. Perhapsit is like saying, “I need a hug,” in North American (US?) culture, but deeper and more personal, I think. We started it up in our household years ago when our children were quite small. I have no research (!), but my experience was that it was lovely for adults and children alike.