[Q&A] Raising Grateful Young People


Leonardo Rocker

[Q&A] Raising Grateful Young People

Kids, by nature, often feel that they are entitled, which makes them less appreciative of the things that they have received, as well as for their experiences. It is the parents’ responsibility to enlighten their children about being grateful for what each has been given. And being able to raise grateful children would be the parents’ achievement.

On this 12th episode of the Impressive podcast, Doctor Kimberley, in response to some of the questions from the listeners, will tell you how to instil the attribute of gratitude to the young ones.

Listen up as we explore:

  • The importance of promoting gratitude in young people
  • Child-friendly daily rituals for ages 2-14 year 12
  • Why we often forget to be grateful

Enjoy the Episode

Further Reading


How to Raise a Humble High Achiever with Zac and Lan Mu

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Read the full transcript below under references

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Dr Kimberley O'Brien (00:08)

Hello. I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mum with a passion for problem solving and family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on-air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is Impressive.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (00:34)

This is episode 12 of Impressive. I'm your host, Kimberley O'Brien. Thanks for joining us again this week. I'm so glad to be talking to you about the idea of gratitude and how to raise truly grateful young people. It's particularly important I think after Christmas and the season of giving, sometimes it seems that kids are not as appreciative as you may wish they were after they receive a big pile of presents, and how do you raise really grateful kids? Well, today we're going to talk about it and we're using our Q&A format again, like we did in the last couple of episodes of Impressive. And the reason for that is because listeners are writing in with questions. And if you'd like to do the same, you can. Just drop us an email at support@quirkykid.com.au. That's support@quirkykid.com.au with your quick question for Impressive. Or alternatively, if you'd like to write lots of questions on a regular basis, you can, and you'll be given an almost immediate response if you go to britechild.com. Now, Brite Child is a new initiative powered by Quirky Kid. The psychologists at Quirky Kid are now available for a subscription fee. If you would like to have an expert that you can access any time anywhere, you can just write a question to britechild.com and we will respond to you within probably about 48 hours. So take a look there if you want to find out more. But for this week, in terms of gratitude, I thought I'd start off with a question and I think I will just throw it over to Moe. He's my neighbour who likes to help out, and this is his question this week.

Moe (02:13)

What if you don't really feel like saying thank you? Why do parents think it's so important? Why is being grateful such an important job?

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (02:25)

And that's a good question, Moe. What if you don't feel like saying thank you? Well, for one, it will probably irritate your parents and possibly the person who gave you their time or attention or a gift. But it's more around this social expectation that if somebody gives you something or if you receive something, you should be grateful in return. And if you think about, as a parent, do you project an attitude of gratitude? Just consider right now what you're thankful for. So what are the first three things that come to mind, something you're grateful for? It could be the environment, your health, your friends and family, maybe your career, your course that you're doing right now, something you're learning, one of your favourite hobbies or your business. These are often things that adults are grateful for, but it's quite an interesting concept.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (03:25)

Children don't usually give much thought to any of those items that I just listed, but if you think also about how you role model gratitude as a parent, how do you suggest to your children that you're grateful for, say, the environment? Do you collect plastic or turn off your ignition if you're parked to save the environment? Do you speak out about what you do to appreciate those things that are important to you? Or do you exercise daily to show that you are valuing your health? Do you tell your friends and family or show them that you really do feel grateful that they're there? So thinking about how you project gratefulness and what your children can learn from your actions is also a really good place to start when it comes to raising grateful young people.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (04:13)

When you're thinking about your workplace, your course, or your business, do you do things that show that you're striving to learn new things or that you're trying to grow something bigger and better? Because that would be an indication to the children around you that this thing is really important to you and you value it. And so it's not about so much what you say, it's more about what you do. So when you think about maybe the number of times you've thought or said, "Be grateful", that's probably not going to make a big difference to a young person. Being told to be grateful often really just makes kids feel guilty for not saying thank you or for not doing what they were supposed to do. But teaching kids to be grateful is quite a challenging and complex type of new skill. So let's talk about it some more.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (05:05)

So we know that being grateful is important, but what if you feel a bit like Moe and sometimes you don't feel like saying thank you? Well, let's have a think about why being grateful is an important attribute that we've heard so much more about in recent times about cultivating an attitude of gratitude and doing daily rituals to show that you do feel grateful for the things and the benefits that you have in your life. Yeah, so why is that important? Let's have a think. Well, if you take everything for granted, say, for example, you just are feeling like things are flowing your way and that's just the way it should be, well, you know what? It's often likely to lead to a greater accumulation of material goods because a lack of appreciation for the small things can mean that you crave more and then you have to work harder to achieve more, and you turn into this, I guess, personal treadmill in that you have this cycle of endless work because you're not spending enough time appreciating the rewards of your labor.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (06:09)

Being appreciative of what you've achieved makes it all worthwhile. So it is important to stop and take a deep breath, think about where you've come from, what you've achieved, and to really appreciate all the extra helping hands, the people that have supported you along the way, and the lucky breaks, the different ups and downs and the interesting turns of events that often take you from A to B. Just appreciating all those things really does make that journey worthwhile, and it's worth retelling those tales to the young people around you so they also can appreciate that it's not just all about hard work. There's a lot of pausing and feeling grateful so that you want to feel motivated to continue achieving and appreciating all the good things that come your way.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (07:02)

Now, speaking of gratitude and being grateful for all the gifts that we've been given, whether that be physical attributes or academic achievement or performance, this is a great time to mention the Power Up Program, which is a Quirky Kid program for children age seven to 11 years. It's completely online, and so you can do it anywhere where you happen to be in the world if you are preparing for an event or a test or a performance or some sort of track meet, athletics carnival. This is the kind of thing that children at the Australian Institute of Sport have used to make sure that they're ready for their performance. So if you'd like to find out more about Power Up, please go to quirkykid.com.au, and for $39.99 Australian dollars you can have the whole kit sent your way so that you're prepared for your next performance. And I'm sure you will be achieving at your absolute best with those supporting you at the sideline.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (08:01)

Now, I promised you a Q&A format for today's episode, and that's exactly what I'm going to deliver. So here's our first question from a listener who says, "What can I do with my five year old to encourage him to be grateful?" I thought I'd give you a tip for children age two to 14 years. One of my suggestions is about random acts of kindness. So doing something for others is a great way for other people to model gratitude while you and your young person watch on and feel good about yourselves. So let me give you an example. If you were to, say, for a two year old encourage them to pick some flowers and then go and deliver those flowers to somebody close by, I'm pretty sure that person will be very grateful. And that two year old will get to see what it looks like to say thank you and to accept that beautiful offering with a big smile and lots of appreciation. That's teaching a very young person how to be grateful just by doing a random act of kindness.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (08:58)

And now for children who are a little bit older than that, say, five year olds, you could encourage them to stack up their unwanted books or even toys and then deliver them to a charity of your choice in your neighbourhood. It's best to deliver it in person because then they get to see the person who receives the goods feeling really grateful and appreciative and your young person will feel good to know that those toys are going to go to a really good place. All their books will be appreciated, all the proceeds will be passed on to that agency that you've just gone to visit. So I would recommend going in person. And the same if you are a 12 to 14 year old or a parent of an early adolescent. Raising money for a good cause is also a great way to teach young children to have an attitude of gratitude.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (09:47)

So if they were to choose a cause, again, in their local area is a really good place to start so they can choose something that they think is important. And a couple of examples are homelessness is often an issue and it's something that we can see and we know is an issue. So you could encourage your young person to collect cans of food from neighbors to deliver to a homeless shelter or even to help out so they can see face to face what it's like to help out in a homeless shelter and to serve up some meals if they're able to, or to help in any way, shape, or form so that they can see what gratitude looks like when they're at the receiving end. And that's why it's important to encourage kids to give so that they really do know how to receive.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (10:36)

Now, here's another question that I thought would be interesting to include. "What if kids are resistant to saying thank you?" So that sounds like Moe before when he didn't really feel comfortable saying thank you, and these things do happen. Some kids just don't really feel that confident sometimes saying thank you or they don't feel like it's that important, so they'd rather slip out and just avoid it if possible. It's a little bit like kids that are just a bit avoidant when it comes to saying hello or goodbye. They find it a little bit too much under the spotlight. Some kids just do not like to receive awards at school. They'd rather just fly under the radar. And that's the same with kids that don't often want to say thank you. They might just find that drawing attention to themselves is a little bit uncomfortable.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (11:20)

So what you can do is not make a big fuss and say thank you, putting pressure on them. Definitely, not a good thing because the young person will just remember feeling humiliated, even if that's not your intention. But being in front of people and made to say something they don't feel comfortable with or they accidentally slipped up and didn't say is not the best way to manage it, but to model thank you and say, "Thank you. I appreciate it." So speaking on behalf of yourself and your young person will be listening and thinking, "Oh, I probably should have said that." You can always suggest afterwards when there's not an audience to say, What about you write a thank you note or a quick text or email to show your appreciation?" Which is something that kids that don't like a lot of attention will often jump at the opportunity to do something that's a little bit more low-key.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (12:08)

Another thing kids often do like to do is to make something in return and then deliver it secretly. So it could be that they didn't say thank you to their teacher, but the next day she comes in and finds a homemade card on her desk and feels very appreciative. So the young person's seeing how that made the teacher feel, but they didn't have to go up and say thank you face to face. So they avoided that, but did manage to do more of a secret homemade delivery when the teacher wasn't there. So considering some of those options may also be helpful. And here's another quick question. "Are some kids naturally more grateful than others?" Well, yes, it does depend on the environment that the young person was raised in. So if a young person is raised by grandparents and other carers, multiple carers that are very grateful and good at role modeling being thankful, then that is typically one of those behaviours that rub off and young kids will find it quite easy to say thank you.

Dr. Kimberley O'Brien (13:09)

And, interestingly, I've heard that even elderly people that have dementia, saying they're pleases and thank yous is just one of the last things that they lose because it's something that's quite ingrained in us as humans to say, "Thank you. Please." It becomes quite automatic. So remembering to try to encourage your kids to say it with heart and authenticity using eye contact so that there is some connection to the words and that it is something that is said with meaning. And now speaking of saying thank you, I'd like to say thank you to all the listeners of Impressive. It's a relatively new podcast and I would be so appreciative if you could share it with somebody you care about, a colleague, a friend, family member who may also appreciate learning about gratitude and how to raise kids that are grateful. I hope that you will continue to listen next week, so don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast app, and we'll see you next week. This was Impressive.

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