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What kids think about ‘gratitude’

What do children know about gratitude? The answers might surprise you.

As parents and caregivers, we often remind our children to be thankful, especially in the month of November with Thanksgiving and Christmas knocking at the door, but do they really grasp what it means? We sought to find answers and asked several Upstate children about gratitude.

According to the Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, there are two qualities that define gratitude. The first is appreciation, recognizing something’s value; the second is freedom, that gratitude is given freely.

So how do children define gratitude? Each one interviewed said that gratitude is being thankful or appreciative for different things in their lives.

Emma Young, a 13-year-old from Pendleton, said, “So many people take things for granted and are selfish, but there is no need for that when there is so many blessings that go to everyone.”

When asked where gratitude comes from, 7-year-old William Redding of Seneca said it comes from God. Cynthia Nix, 12, simply said it came from her heart. She was echoed by Emma as well as Jackson Moore, 10.

But, is gratitude a choice? The children we asked were divided on that. All the children we asked under the age of 13 felt that gratitude was definitely a choice people could make. But the teenagers we polled said no, it was not a choice.

“No, all people feel it. Always be grateful for everything in your life, even if you may be in a bad spot,” said Jacob Chrysostom, 16.

Angeles Arrien, author of “Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life,” agrees with the younger set. She claims that gratitude is not just an emotional response, but a choice.

“We can choose to be grateful, or we can choose to be ungrateful – to take our gifts and blessings for granted. As a choice, gratitude is an attitude or disposition,” Arrien states in her book.

Does this mean that our views on gratitude change as we get older? Ryan felt that it looked more or less the same between children and adults. Jackson said that as we get older, we learn more ways to show it.

Jacob hit the nail on the head when he said people begin to feel gratitude for different things as they get older, and that adults are grateful for the more simple things in life.

Cynthia agreed, saying, “Children are grateful for things and possessions, where adults are are grateful for bills being paid and their jobs.”

Emma added that as a person ages, their perspective changes, making them more grateful for certain situations in their lives.

Everyone knows how to show gratitude and children are no different. Everybody said the easiest way was to say, “Thank you.” Ryan Poetz of Clemson, 11, said people could do some sort of service as a way of showing gratefulness. And 8-year-old Fynn McFarland added that people could give things away to show it.

When asked if gratitude cost anything, all the children said it was free — except one. Our youngest responder, William, said it did cost. In kisses.