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Teaching Kids Gratitude Reduces Materialism

girl writing in journal

On the whole as a society, we tend to like stuff. Some of us more than others (just watch an episode of Hoarders). But materialism is turning into an epidemic of sorts, with kids and teens being marketed to in ways that are changing as quickly as our social media climate. Instead of simply worrying about our kids begging for a toy or gadget they see during television commercials, there are YouTube stars and the like hawking products without it even feeling like an ad.

If YouTube stars, a career which many tweens and teens find accessible these days, can get their hands on stuff, luxury or otherwise, than why can't your average kid on the street?

The problem is, materialism has been shown to affect overall mental health in really negative ways, and a new study conducted by a team at the University of Illinois at Chicago is looking at the connection between gratitude and materialism. Namely how encouraging more of the former can help reduce the latter.

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Researchers began their journey by surveying a total of 870 tweens and teens about their attitudes toward material items, as well as the gratitude they have for the people in their lives (not to mention their stuff). The conclusion was clear as day: Those who reported being more grateful were also more likely to be less materialistic.

The next step the team took to measure materialism against gratitude was by asking a group of 30 teenagers to keep a gratitude journal. This entailed writing daily entries about who and what they are grateful for. A separate group of 30 teens was asked to log an activity journal, writing down what they did that day. After this two-week period of journaling, all 60 participants were asked questions about materialism and gratitude again. At the end of the program the research team gave each participant 10 one dollar bills, letting them know they could either keep the money or donate it to charity.

What the team found was that the kids who were assigned the gratitude journals should a significant increase in their feelings of, well, gratitude. They also had a drop in feelings of materialism. They also tended to be more generous. The gratitude journal group donated seven dollars of their ten dollars on average. The other group averaged individual donations of just over four bucks.

Taking these findings to heart for your own family, consistently offering and encouraging feelings of gratitude could help decrease the amount of "I want that" you're hearing from your kids. Feeling a little extra appreciation and kindness never hurt anyone, and in this case could really open tweens and teens up to a more positive life experience overall.

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