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How to Raise Kids Who Value People Over Possessions, According to New Research

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In a day and age when people are constantly glued to their mobile gadgets and drooling over expensive name brands, there’s no question that materialism is a widespread issue. So, it’s little mystery why parents and grandparents out there are wondering how they can help the kids in their lives avoid this troublesome quality — and care more about the people around them than their prized possessions. Luckily, recent research shows this might be a lot easier than you’d expect.

An October 2018 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology analyzed more than 900 kids aged 11 to 17 to find possible ways they could curb their materialistic tendencies. After a series of experiments, researchers noticed a link between fostering gratitude and its effects on the participants’ materialism. Results suggested that adolescents who regularly express gratitude might potentially decrease their materialism later on — and also increase their generosity. Talk about a win-win!

“Our findings show that it is possible to reduce materialism among young consumers, as well as one of its most common negative consequences (non-generosity) using a simple strategy — fostering gratitude for the things and people in their lives,” said study coauthor Lan Nguyen Chaplin, PhD, in a press release. “The results of this survey study indicate that higher leveals of gratitude are associated with lower levels of materialism in adolescents across a wide range of demographic groups.”

The best part? It was pretty darn easy for many of these kids to learn how to practice gratitude. For example, one experiment involved keeping a gratitude journal, which some participants used to record what they were thankful for every day. Another included measuring the value of material goods and then measuring gratitude for loved ones. 

Of course, those aren’t the only ways young people can learn how to be grateful for what they have. Researchers suggested other possible methods, such as kids making posters with images of the things they’re grateful for. Another option is keeping a gratitude jar: Children write down what they’re thankful for on a piece of paper every week, then slip it into an ever-growing stack within the jar.

Why wait for Thanksgiving to teach the youngsters in your life to be thankful? The perfect time to start is now!

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