There’s an easy way to make kids stop asking for things non-stop before the holidays, and it’s proven by science to work
A new study has found that kids who keep a simple gratitude journal are significantly less materialistic and more giving — and that’s exactly what we need to hear with the holidays barreling toward us and our kids’ wish lists scrolling off the table and onto the floor.
Published in the Journal of Positive Psychology and conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the new study found that it’s much easier than we thought to curb materialism in our kids and, at the same time, to nurture feelings of thankfulness and giving.
The study took 61 kids ages 11 to 17 and broke them into two groups: the first group wrote in a gratitude journal once a day about what they were thankful for in their lives, while the control group wrote a daily journal about their activities.
At the end of the two-week study, the kids were given ten dollars for their participation, and told that they could keep the cash or donate some or all of it to charity. Kids who kept a gratitude journal donated more than two-thirds of their earnings, while kids who didn’t donated less than half on average.
The study also surveyed hundreds of teens and tweens about materialism and gratitude, and found a strong link between a lack of gratitude and materialism, as well as a link between thankfulness and lack of materialism.
The clear lesson? Teaching your kids to give thanks every day can prevent them from being greedy (and note that materialism has been linked to everything from mental health issues to selfish behaviors to anxiety and depression).
“Our findings show that it is possible to reduce materialism among young consumers, as well as one of its most common negative consequences (nongenerosity) using a simple strategy — fostering gratitude for the things and people in their lives,” said coauthor Lan Nguyen Chaplin, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Chaplin noted, too, that the trend of thankfulness eliminating materialism was found among a wide range of demographics — race, sex, location, and class didn’t seem to matter.
Of course, while a gratitude journal is a great and easy way to make sure that your kids are really thinking about what they already have, and what they could give to help others, it’s far from the only route you could take toward making certain your kids recognize what they have and where it came from.
As fall approaches, try out Thankful Pumpkins with the kids. Or have them each write thank you notes to people that help them, inspire them, or educate them – from teachers to artists to writers to scientists to volunteers around town. Another idea? Go around the table at dinner time (or breakfast — it doesn’t matter!) and share a thing or two that everyone’s grateful for. And remember: modeling grateful behavior is just as important as engendering it in your kids.