Children are not usually born grateful - they learn it from others.
Children are not usually born grateful - they learn it from others. (Photo:

Raising grateful kids

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and many of us are counting our blessings and pausing to appreciate what's really important in life. But are we raising our kids to be thankful, as well?

Studies have shown that grateful kids are not only happier kids, but are also more likely to have higher grades, more friends and more life satisfaction than their materialistic counterparts.

They're also less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, have behavior problems at school or suffer from depression.

So it's no wonder parents are wondering how to make their kids more thankful.

According to the experts, encouraging "please" and "thank you" is a great place to start, but true gratitude – and the empathy and compassion that comes with it –  is a long-term process and requires real effort on the part of parents.

An ounce of prevention

Although it's difficult to say no in a culture that celebrates consumerism and all things new and shiny, that's exactly what's necessary. It's hard to teach thankfulness to kids if they get everything they ask for.

So if you're serious about raising grateful kids you'll have to say no even when it seems easier – and maybe more fun – to say yes.

One clever psychologist suggests having "look days" and "buy days."

Before you head out for the day's activities, let your kids know that it's just a "look day." Maybe you'll see trees at the park, or toys in the store or souvenirs at the museum, but today you're just looking and enjoying. Other days can be "buy days," when you purchase things. Of course, more days should be "look days" than "buy days."

Think of saying "no" to new materials things as saying "yes" to appreciating what you already have.

To avoid an unreasonable amount of gifts and materials things at holiday time, consider Secret Santa exchanges where everyone receives one or two special items. If you can't avoid the deluge of gifts, be sure to keep the focus on celebrating and spending time with friends and family rathe…

Kids and technology: a complicated relationship.
Kids and technology: a complicated relationship. (Photo:

Kids and technology: what's OK?

It starts early, this epic battle with technology that we parents face. It’s a love-hate relationship, really. We love technology for the times that it distracts our children so that we can cook dinner. We love it for the times that it teaches them new things, or helps them to complete their homework. We love it for the times that it helps them channel their imagination and create something new. 

But for all of the good things technology brings our kids, we fear the dangers, too. Cyberbullying, sexting, child predators, obscenities, childhood obesity, and gaming addictions are just a few of the risks we take when we enter this ever-growing technological labyrinth.

The overprotective mom in me wants to keep my kids sheltered from these dangers. But deep down I know that that would be like building a fence around a pool. I can keep them out for awhile, but what I really need to do is teach them to swim.

In order to fully understand the dangers of technology and how dependent we have become upon it, naturally I turned to technology. I Googled and Googled and Googled. I wanted to learn how to help my children navigate their world in a healthy, moderate way.  I tried to separate the good advice from the bad advice from the completely unrealistic advice. And I found some patterns in my research. 

Here is a guide to the best advice I found:

1. Know the facts: According to one of most comprehensive surveys done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids are spending over seven hours a day in front of a screen for enjoyment, or almost a third of each day. But what is more surprising from this survey is that over two thirds of respondents indicated that they had no rules or limits for the amount of screen time they were allowed. While technology can benefit kids in many ways, unsupervised, unrestricted screen time can expose them to images and behaviors you wouldn't dream of having them exposed to otherwise.

2. Start young: If possible, start guiding your children…