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Teaching Kids Gratitude

Learning to Express Gratitude

The strategy: Openly express our own gratitude, and praise the kids when they try to follow suit. "The first step to changing kids' behavior is being good role models," says Froh.

We ease into our get-more-grateful regimen over pancakes and fruit early one morning, when Gordon declares, "Thank you for the delicious breakfast, Gin." The boys, still half asleep, munch in silence for a minute or two, then Will, the more emotionally clued-in of our kids, rouses himself and comes out with, "Yeah, thanks, Mom. Good eats." His comment gives me the opportunity to reinforce his effort. "That's nice of you to say, Will," I reply.

Over the next few days I realize that although I thought I was pretty good about saying thank you, I miss opportunities all the time -- to Gordon for a quick neck rub, after the woman at the deli hands me my tea, when the UPS guy drops off a package. One night after Griffin hangs up his wet towel I kiss him on the head and tell him, "Thanks, Sweetie." Then I wonder: Should you thank kids for doing things they should be doing anyway?

Absolutely, is Froh's answer. "Saying thank you is a great way to reinforce a positive behavior," he adds. Even these small changes seem to make a difference with the boys. Already we've moved the gratitude needle. They're saying thank you more often.

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