I would like my daughter to be grateful for her life - being healthy and raised in a rich country by a caring and loving family, she should be. How can I make her see her life as good enough, without being negative?

I was raised expecting too much from life. I am constantly frustrated and disappointed, even though I have what appears to be a good and lucky life from the outside. On the contrary, I have seen people expecting very little from life and be happy for what they have.

These high expectations resulted in many achievements and have given me a lot of energy throughout the years. But it also makes me unhappy and disappointed regardless of these achievements.

I have the feeling that showing her what a horrible life looks like in comparison wouldn't work. And telling her "do whatever you like and it will end-up fine" would be a lie.

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    Hi, Tom, and welcome to the site. This question can use a bit more detail; how old is your daughter, for example? What have you done/are you doing to encourage this attitude? Why do you think it's not working? Do you think you can teach her while avoiding modelling that behavior yourself? Thanks. Jul 5, 2015 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


Gratitude doesn't come naturally to most people in the west because of the expectations they are constantly being exposed to by the culture: freedom from all debt is highly valued (not only financial), advertisements generate want (often through entitlement), the media focus on wealth, celebrity, and achievement, the focus on career instead of character, etc. In our culture, which treats good things in our lives as products or our own doing, but the losses and suffering as not our fault, it is a set up for a lack of gratitude.

Your question (as it is now) reads as though you think it's too late for you to learn gratitude (I may well be wrong, but your focus is on your disappointments.)

To help your child, you first need to help yourself so that you experience real gratitude; then you can model it for her every day in your life. If you try to teach something you don't really have, it's not hard for anyone who lives with you to figure it out pretty quickly and reject the words which essentially amount to "do as I say, not as I do".

I have seen people expecting very little from life and be happy for what they have.

What strikes me immediately is that this statement is written in the present tense. That's really the place one must emphasize to find gratitude.

If you want to help your daughter be grateful (and this is best done with modelling from her parents), emphasize and prioritize things she actually has control over: teach character instead of achievement, resilience instead of success, process rather than product, actions over appearance, kindness above self-fulfillment, value people above money, appreciate living in the now rather than anticipating future happiness. One can enjoy life while working to better one's circumstances; if circumstances don't change, one can still enjoy life.

I would recommend that the first step for you (I am assuming she is still very young) is to read* and start keeping a gratitude journal. The focus in gratitude is to see good things in your life now as "gifts" (as opposed to rewards you've earned or deserve): being grateful for the gift of a beautiful sunset, the gift of an opportunity to help someone in need, the gift of a fun experience with your daughter, the gift of a meaningful story in a book, The gift of living with enough, the gift of people you love to share your life today with, etc. The idea is that more you realize your blessings, the more you'll share these feelings with your daughter, and thus shape her attitude by example.

Once you really learn how to see and appreciate all the good things in your life, you can really instruct your daughter in the art of the same.

Sorry if anyone finds this preachy. It is something I'm fairly passionate about.

*I've learned a lot from the writings of a man named Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn got his Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT. While at working with cancer patients and others with serious diagnoses at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, he developed an approach of mindful living. If he could help those in dire circumstances to find happiness, I wanted to know what he taught his patients so I could give it to my own patients. What I read made my own life better as well.

Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.
Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration
The Psychology of Gratitude
Meditation and Positive Psychology
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

He who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment on his debt. - Seneca

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    I wish I could upvote this a zillion more times.
    – Valkyrie
    Jul 6, 2015 at 9:44
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    Thank you @anongoodnurse for such a great answer. You are right in assuming she is very young (14 months). What you are saying sounds fair, the best is probably that I start with myself. I think I will come back to this answer whenever I'm in doubt. And start reading as you suggest. Thanks again.
    – tom
    Jul 6, 2015 at 19:12
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    Honnestly, being that young, you probably are overthinking it. I think the key to parenting is "adaptation", and your ultimate ambition for your kid should be for her to be happy. Will it be by being an accomplished business woman ? An artist ? A secretary ? A housewife ? A teacher ? A soldier ? Heterosexual or Homosexual ? Famous or Unknown ? You'll know only when time comes. Meanwhile just try to let all doors open but the objectively bad ones (as there are obviously some situations nobody would wish to anybody).
    – Laurent S.
    Jul 7, 2015 at 8:13
  • @Bartdude I disagree that there's any age that is too young to encourage gratitude and appreciation.
    – Acire
    Jul 7, 2015 at 11:04
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    @Erica Well There's at least an age limit under which you can't expect much reason out of a child, and under which you can hardly blame them for anything, including being ungrateful. Up to this age, children are generally happy with what they've got, therefore grateful for about everything (the typical "Baby loves the wrapping paper more than the gift self" is a good example); This age is not precisely defined, but I think 14 months is definitely too young to hope for anything like that...
    – Laurent S.
    Jul 7, 2015 at 12:23

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