“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others.
The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” – Alfred North Whitehead
Parents often worry that exposure to a wealthy lifestyle, without experiencing the work and sacrifices that went into building the wealth, could cause children to feel entitled. They fear that children might view the opportunities and benefits they receive from the family’s wealth as “deserved” or a “right,” rather than as special gifts bestowed upon them by family members who worked hard and wanted to share their success with those they love.
Luckily for parents, recent studies have shown that feelings of entitlement, of deserving everything that comes to you just for being you, can be counteracted to some degree by practicing gratitude. These studies have also shown that incorporating gratitude into an individual’s life can provide better health and happiness, along with other benefits.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is a word heard frequently around the holidays, especially when parents are nagging children to write thank you notes for gifts they have received. But gratitude is not just about remembering to say “thanks” when someone does something nice for you. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, psychology professor at UC Davis and a leading researcher in this area, gratitude has two key elements:
First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.... [Second] we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.1
Dr. Emmons’s work indicates that some people naturally have a more “grateful” nature and easily recognize the help they have received, while for others, gratitude can be developed with a little effort.2
How parents can help children learn gratitude.
For parents who want to encourage their children to adopt a grateful mindset, talking about what gratitude is and modeling it for the children is a good start. Dr. Emmons has found that gratitude can be developed by thoughtfully recognizing those things for which you are grateful,3
so activities that help children change or focus their thinking can help build gratitude skills:
- Take time to find something to be grateful for each day (even if the best thing they can say about the day is that it is over!);
- Identify things they are grateful for, but often (or always) take for granted;
- Think about the people in their lives that they are grateful for and why they might wish to thank them;
- Identify things about themselves that they are grateful for (personality traits, skills, etc.);
- Keep a gratitude journal – at least two to three times per week write about the events they enjoyed, any gifts and benefits they received, and people they are thankful for;
- Discuss gratitude at dinner – encourage everyone to share something from the day for which they are grateful;
- If prayers are part of your children’s routine, have them add the things they were grateful for that day; and
- Volunteer – people often feel grateful for what they have when they see others working tirelessly for dramatically less. In addition, people naturally feel good when they are helpful, which leads to other important health and wellness benefits.
The benefits of gratitude.
Studies have shown that incorporating gratitude into one’s daily life provides a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved mental and emotional well-being by feeling more positive emotions (thereby reducing negative emotions, anxiety and risk of depression and substance abuse);
- Improved physical health, including better sleep and a stronger immune system;
- Improved academic achievement;
- Improved energy levels and motivation;
- Enhanced ability to deal with adversity; and
- Enhanced ability to build strong relationships. 4
Helping gratitude to become a habit.
If you’re worried that feelings of entitlement may find their way into your children’s lives, think about ways you can help them look outside themselves to recognize the help they receive from others on a daily basis. And remind them to thank people for the help whenever possible. This makes both parties feel good!
To help new gratitude behaviors stick for your children, attach the behavior to something the children already do (e.g., eat dinner, say prayers, write in a journal, do homework) to make it easier to remember. Studies show that if you add something into your routine and can remember to do it consistently for two months, it will become a habit that you will generally keep.
The holidays are a wonderful time to think about how gratitude is present in your children and how you can help them broaden their grateful state of mind as they grow. The new year is also a perfect time for children to make a resolution to practice more gratitude.
If you are looking for other ways to prepare the next generation to steward the family’s legacy, don’t hesitate to contact your Warner attorney or Beth O’Laughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Holidays from the Private Client and Family Office Group at Warner Norcross + Judd!
What is Gratitude? Retrieved from https://gratefulness.org/resource/what-is-gratitude/
Elmore, T. The Inverse Relationship Between Gratitude and Entitlement. Retrieved from https://growingleaders.com/blog/inverse-relationship-gratitude-entitlement/
Gratitude is good medicine. (November 25, 2015). https://health.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2015-2016/11/20151125_gratitude.html
Morin, A. (April 3, 2015). 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Psychology Today
. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude