Skip to main content

Five children (7-12) playing with plastic hoops in park Collection: Digital Vision Item number: sb10062905q-001 Title: Five children (7-12) playing with plastic hoops in park License type: Royalty-free Max file size (JPEG): 16.6 x 11.1 in (4,992 x 3,328 px) / 300 dpi Release info: Model released Photographer: Bec Parsons Copyright: Credit: Bec Parsons Keywords: 10-11 Years, 12-13 Years, 6-7 Years, 8-9 Years, Boys, Casual Clothing, Caucasian Ethnicity, Cheerful, Childhood, Children Only, Color Image, Day, Elementary Age, Enjoyment, Five People, Full Length, Girls, Grass, Group Of People, Happiness, Horizontal, Leisure Activity, Outdoors, Park, People, Photography, Plastic Hoop, Playful, Playing, Pre-Adolescent Child, Relaxation, Standing, Togetherness

Bec Parsons/Getty Images

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children, Me to We and We Day. Find out more at we.org. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

Everywhere we go, from Ecuador to India, we pick up snippets of the local language. Invariably, one of the very first phrases we are taught is how to say "thank you."

There isn't a dialect we know of without at least one common expression of gratitude. Appreciation is a fundamental building block of human society. And as we see it, gratitude is a critical ingredient in compassion. The greater our appreciation for our own good fortune, the greater our desire to share it with others.

Story continues below advertisement

And now, there's more science showing gratitude is good for our health, too.

Last year, researchers at the San Diego School of Medicine took 40 patients with heart problems, and asked half of them to keep a journal to record aspects of their life – from loved ones to good food – that they were grateful for each day. After just a few months, those who kept gratitude journals showed significant improvement in their heart health over those who didn't document their thankfulness.

Another study of students at the Universities of Kentucky and Utah found those who felt more grateful, and were generally optimistic in their outlook, had stronger immune systems.

This makes us wonder, where does gratitude come from – nature or nurture?

Scientists at the University of North Carolina think it's in our DNA. An experiment they conducted in 2013 revealed that people who possess a particular gene, which affects the production of the neurochemical oxytocin, are more prone to expressing their gratitude. Yet many other studies suggest we can actively encourage and grow a sense of gratitude in ourselves and others – like our children – through activities, such as keeping a gratitude journal.

This week's question: How can we raise kids who have a strong sense of gratitude?

THE EXPERTS

Story continues below advertisement

Dr. Carla Fry, psychologist and co-author of Gratitude & Kindness: A Modern Parents Guide to Raising Children in an Era of Entitlement (Real Parenting Lab, 2015)

"Invite your child to take a gratitude walk with you and focus on experiencing gratitude as you go. Kick it off by sharing that you're grateful for having the walk with your child.

Dr. Christine Carter, fellow, UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents (Ballantine Books, 2011)

"On birthdays, my kids make giant paper place cards for each guest, and as people arrive and mingle, each guest takes some time to sit down at the table and write on the inside of their place card something that they love, or appreciate, about the person whose birthday it is."

Denise Daniels, child development expert and creator of a line of pre-school toys and books, The Moodsters

"Every time your child shows their gratitude, he or she drops a marble in a jar. When the jar is full, you celebrate by doing something of their choice, such as going out for an ice cream, a new book, or watching a movie together."

Story continues below advertisement

Have your say in the comments.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.