Our proposal addresses the big question of why gratitude matters in children and what parents can do to best cultivate gratitude in their children. To date, the empirical base for recommending parenting practices to enhance children’s gratitude is meager. Our study will enhance this base and identify novel parenting strategies that foster children's gratitude. In a previous Templeton-funded study, we collected observational and survey data from 107 parent-child dyads to determine how parents define gratitude and what they do to foster gratitude in children aged 6-9. Our initial findings provide support for at least two parenting behaviors that are associated with greater gratitude in children, namely parents’ intentional selection of children’s activities with the goal of fostering gratitude and parents’ daily conversations that scaffold and reinforce children’s experiences of gratitude. To determine whether these and additional parenting practices indeed foster future experiences of gratitude in children as well as greater health, well-being and character development, we propose to collect similar observational and survey data from the same parent-child dyads again in pre-adolescence (ages 10-13). We will create an online training module for parents and use a randomized control design to test whether parents who complete the module actually use these strategies more effectively than parents without this training and, in turn, have children who display and experience gratitude more often. Through this study, we will identify optimal ways to discuss gratitude with parents and children, identify effective parenting strategies that foster gratitude in children and pre-teens, and take the first step toward translating these findings into effective programming for families.
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