Monday, 18 January 2016

Moany, groany kids? Get them to keep a Gratitude Diary

I’d noticed my 9-year-old daughter was turning into a right old Moany Joe. According to her, everything about her life was rubbish. Why didn’t she go to Florida on holiday like her friend ? Have a bigger bedroom? Get Coco-Pops for breakfast?

It was draining. Disheartening. Irritating. It also seemed like a really bad habit to slip into. An unhelpful state of mind to embark on life with. I remembered reading that  incredibly – only 10% of our happiness level actually depends on our circumstances. 50% is 'pre-set' by our genes. And a big, fat 40% is under our control  what we do and how we choose to think. Best nip her negativity in the bud right now then.

“How about trying a Gratitude Diary with her?” I thought out loud to my husband. Get her to write down three good things about her day at bedtime. I’d kept one myself, a few years ago, when they were all the rage. Feeling grateful, research shows, is a powerful mood-booster. Although the effects had crept up on me subtly, after a few weeks I was undoubtedly more upbeat, more glass half-full than empty. "Worth a try," he said.  

I introduced the idea to my daughter in my best isn't-this-going-to-be-fun voice. Then took her to the art shop to choose a pretty, glittery notebook. She was sold.
The effect on her was almost instant. I guess kids' supple, squidgy, absorbent brains can be re-trained quicker than ours. Three days in and she was noticeably chirpier, springier. Already giving more mind-space to the positive, lingering less on the negative. 

She loved writing in it and wanted to add pictures. (I suppose a younger child or a reluctant writer could just do pictures and you could do the writing for them.) Yes, there was frequently gratitude for the obvious and the instantly gratifying...
Though sometimes done quite mindfully...
But there was also appreciation of people...
Moments of achievement...
And funniness...
The feel-good factor that comes from being kind...
Things she'd ordinarily have taken for granted...
Or might have even complained about... 
Plus pleasure in other people's pleasure...
In fact, she often found it hard to limit herself to just three things. "Can I have extra ones?" she asked.
A few weeks in and she was spontaneously saying things like, “Now, what have I got to look forward to tomorrow?” and “That was a great weekend...what did you like best?”

I've since read that if you write in a Gratitude Diary every day, after a while the effects can wear off because you start to go through the motions without really 'feeling it'. So now we just do it randomly, about once a week. And it's still working.
Nothing had changed in her life of course. You still can’t swing a cat in her bedroom and our next holiday is a week in a caravan in North Wales  in winter for goodness sake.

It’s just that somehow she's managing to find the good in all this awfulness [insert winky face].


  1. Love these little drawings! Gratitude lists are great to put things into perspective! - even for kids. Love the Twister! #LetKidsBeKids

  2. And I think spending time doing the drawings really made her 'focus' and 'feel' the things she was grateful for.

  3. What a fantastic idea. Something like this can really focus the mind on the smallest of things that brighten a day. I should maybe try this with my son. Love her little drawings.
    Thanks for sharing #LetKidsBeKids

  4. That's amazing! I will need to do this with Ethan when he is a little bigger. I think. I love her drawing of your cut finger with all the blood gushing out! That's hilarious! Well - not for you - of course - you probably feeling awful at the time. But it seem like that would be something my boy would draw. I think you have a good artist in the house! :) x #letkidsbekids.

  5. What a great idea! I have a 4 year old that I've been trying to teach to be more grateful. It's a bit like pulling teeth. lol Thanks for sharing on #fabfridaypost.

  6. Pulling teeth, yes! I was amazed how quickly this worked!

  7. This is Amazing! I will try this with my little Ethan. He is such a whiny kid! I can not wait to see the result of this. What a difference! Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost x