This Thanksgiving, take the opportunity to explore gratitude with your child. Here's a repost of an excerpt from the Note to Readers in Grow Grateful by Jon Lasser, PhD and Sage Foster-Lasser. Gratitude is a complex experience of thoughts and feelings that we have in relationships with others. Psychologists believe that gratitude is an important part of our overall well-being and that having gratitude leads to greater happiness and better interpersonal relationships. Most children develop thoughts and feelings related to gratitude through social learning (i.e., observing gratitude expressed by others) and by having their own experiences of gratitude. The development of gratitude also emerges with children’s moral development. Along with physical growth and language development comes greater sophistication in evaluating the behaviors of others and making value judgments. Coupled with the growth in perspective-taking, this newly developed moral reasoning allows children to think about what others may have done for them and consequently experience gratitude for others. There are lots of ways that adults can help children develop the cognitive, social, and emotional foundations of gratitude. The suggestions below can be adjusted to meet the varying developmental needs of children (e.g., an activity that calls for writing can be accomplished by drawing a picture or having the child dictate to the parent). Foster authentic gratitude. Gratitude isn’t meaningful when it’s not authentic, so try to avoid forcing expressions of thankfulness. Instead, encourage thoughtful reflection and allow grateful feelings to emerge. Rather than instructing your child to say thank you after a home-cooked meal, talk to them about the farming, cooking, and preparation processes that went into creating the meal. In this way, you can help your child evoke more genuine feelings of gratitude. Create grateful art. Get out some art materials and work with your child to make something creative around the theme of gratitude. For example, you and your child can cut out pictures from old magazines that represent things for which you are grateful and then glue to pictures to poster board. You can hang up your gratitude collage as a reminder of the things for which you’re thankful. When doing this, let your child select his or her own pictures without direction from you, as gratitude is individualized and personal. Make a gratitude visit. This idea is adapted from the work of Dr. Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Encourage your child to think of someone who has been kind and helpful to them. It may be a family member, a teacher, a neighbor, etc. Then ask your child to write (or dictate) a letter about how that person was helpful. Finally, take your child to deliver the letter of gratitude. This activity promotes not only reflection, but also the expression of feelings. Volunteer with your child. Select a community volunteer project that welcomes children, and spend some time engaged in helping others with your child. You and your child are likely to meet new people, be helpful, and experience the gratitudeRead More
About Jon Lasser, PhDJon Lasser, PhD, is a psychologist, school psychologist, professor, and program director of the school psychology program at Texas State University. At Texas State, he has developed and taught graduate courses for the school psychology program and has also taught the freshman first-year experience course. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in Plan II liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in human sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.
What exactly do boys do? The answer is ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! From eating to dreaming, making mistakes to exploring, to hurting and loving, there is more to being a boy than meets the eye. What Boys Do by Jon Lasser, PhD, is a fun, affirming book that holds no restraints to traditional norms about what it means to be a boy. Here’s an adapted excerpt from Dr. Lasser’s Reader’s Note with strategies to support boys. In the case of boys, we often think in terms of stereotypes of masculinity. In many Western cultures, boys are expected to be tough, stoic, self-confident, independent, aggressive, assertive, ambitious, and insensitive. This gender role may be transmitted to boys at a very young age. Many psychologists and educators are concerned that gender role stereotypes can be harmful to boys and men...Boys and girls may function best when they can integrate qualities that are masculine and feminine. When restricted to the qualities associated with one gender, children may be limited in their potential. Adults can facilitate the healthy development of boys by supporting their personhood rather than the more narrowly defined boyhood. Ways We Can Help Boys Read diverse books to boys. Look for books that feature male and female characters with diverse interests. Boys may enjoy stories that show girls as strong heroes, or stories in which boys have opportunities to be creative and loving. Engage in imaginative play with boys. Playing house or school involves interpersonal communication, role-play, and imagination. Through play, you communicate that boys can take on nurturing roles. Support boys’ goals and interests. All too often we assume that a boy wants to play a sport or play with toy trucks. Many boys do have such interests, and it's good to support them. Even so, some boys have an interest in dance or theater. Provide boys with a variety of options and support them in pursuing that which aligns with their interests. Help boys see that there are many ways to be a boy/man. Though gender role stereotypes are powerful, there are countless examples in our communities of boys and men who have both masculine and feminine qualities. When you observe them, point them out to boys. Practice unconditional positive regard for boys. We have an opportunity to express love and acceptance of boys regardless of their gender expression. Though some may criticize boys who deviate from gender stereotypes, we can promote healthy development by accepting boys for being who they are. Boys can experience a range of feelings and behaviors. We can help boys by showing them that there are many ways to be a boy, and support boys for being who they are.Read More
Growing a garden and sharing the harvest helped me grow kind. How do you grow kind? Kiko loves growing fruit, vegetables, and flowers in her garden. Kiko doesn't just grow plants, she grows and shares kindness! Sharing what she has grown helps others and Kiko feel good. Hear Magination Press author, Jon Lasser, PhD, read Grow Kind aloud!Read More