As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I was planning on doing our usual tradition of going around the table and asking everyone to name someone or something for which they are thankful, until I read the article, “What’s Better than Gratitude,” at PsychologyToday.com. The article reports on two studies conducted at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania where they took a group of people and randomly assigned them to list either things they were grateful for or things that they had done that others might be grateful for. In follow up behavior the latter group showed more signs of an increased desire to be charitable.
As a mother of 3, I’m constantly looking for ways in which I can teach my kids to be even more generous and kind. I want them to appreciate what they have and find motivation to make the world around them better. So this article got my attention.
There was conventional wisdom that if you focus attention on good deeds, people will feel satisfied and stop doing them. But this research shows the opposite. If you make people focus on their good deeds it motivates them to do more.
So I’m going to experiment this year. I’m going to let my kids know the morning of Thanksgiving that at dinner I’d like them to each tell us what they think they do that others might be thankful for. For example, did they help with making the meal? Did they help set the table? Are they generally helpful and kind? Do they think of others before themselves? I’m curious to see what they say, but I’m even more curious to see if it motivates them to make Thanksgiving a day not of giving thanks, but of giving thanklessly. Along the way they may actually be more thankful, too.