How Not to Raise an Ungrateful Brat

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Gratitude is an Attitude
Christine Carter

Did you know that grateful people sleep better?

Researchers have found that people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.


Grateful people not only feel good, but they act good, so to speak; their joy and enthusiasm is palpable to others.  Studies show that people who have been taught to practice being appreciative offer more emotional support to other people.  Grateful people are more likely to be both kind and helpful.  And the spouses and friends of gratitude practicers report increases in energy, excitement,  and attentiveness.

We need to teach our children to be grateful because American culture glorifies independence and undervalues how much others help.  We see our blessings as hard-earned.  One gratitude researcher, in a recent article for Greater Good magazine, describes a scene from The Simpsons:  “When asked to say grace at the family dinner table, Bart Simpson offers the following words: ‘Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.’” This sense of entitlement will not lead to happy lives.  Pioneering social scientists think that 40% of our happiness comes from intentional, chosen activities throughout the day.  Choose to be entitled, choose to be grateful—whatever you decide, it is going to influence your happiness.

So why don’t more people choose thankfulness over cynicism and entitlement?  I think we lack ways to talk about gratitude. My kids have picked up rich notions of what romantic love is from watching Disney princess movies, but probably couldn’t say a word about how Cinderella feels thankful for all her fairy godmother has given her or how she expressed that gratitude.  We don’t talk much about good things that come from other people’s efforts, about the ways that our neighbors and coworkers and grandparents contribute directly to our own well-being.

The good news is that thankfulness is not a fixed trait.  It’s is a skill that can be cultivated, like kicking a soccer ball or speaking French.  Gratitude is one of the ways that we teach our offspring to forge critical social bonds.  So as a society it is in our best interest to teach habits of thankfulness and appreciation.


The first video in this series is The Psychology of Success. The second is Achievement Doesn’t Matter. The third teaches more about the right way to praise kids. The fourth is Let Your Kids Fail. This is the fifth video in the series.


© 2012 Christine Carter, Ph.D. This video originally appeared in Nov 2007.

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