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Teaching Kids Gratitude

Write down What You Appreciate Every Day

The strategy: Every night write down what we appreciated that day -- an approach that many studies have shown leads to positive change.

We quickly find that writing things down feels forced, so we simplify it, spending five minutes before bed talking about the day. Will's comments are sincere -- "I'm grateful that Nathan [his teacher] let me go on the field trip even though I didn't turn in my permission slip on time." Griffin, on the other hand, often tosses off a no-brainer -- "I'm grateful to you and Dad for being my parents" -- or makes silly jokes like "I'm grateful for doors because we wouldn't be able to get into our house without them."

Not surprisingly, wisecracks are common among kids who aren't comfortable expressing their emotions. "It takes effort to come up with something sincere," says Froh. I decide to offer my son some coaching. The next night I say, "Hey, Griff, it was nice of Timon's mom to take you guys to the Exploratorium today." He says, "Oh, yeah. I'm grateful to Anja. That was fun." Not exactly an emotional outpouring, but it's a start.

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