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Moany, Groany Kids? Try This

20/01/2016 18:01 GMT | Updated 20/01/2017 10:12 GMT

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I'd noticed my nine-year-old daughter was turning into a right old Moany Joe. According to her, everything about her life was rubbish. Why didn't she go to Florida on holiday like her friend? Have a bigger bedroom? Get Coco-Pops for breakfast?

It was draining. Disheartening. Irritating. It also seemed like a really bad habit to slip into. An unhelpful state of mind to embark on life with. I remembered reading that - incredibly - only 10% of our happiness level actually depends on our circumstances. 50% is 'pre-set' by our genes. And a big, fat 40% is under our control - what we do and how we choose to think. Best nip her negativity in the bud right now then.

"How about trying a Gratitude Diary with her?" I thought out loud to my husband. Get her to write down three good things about her day at bedtime. I'd kept one myself, a few years ago, when they were all the rage. Feeling grateful, research shows, is a powerful mood-booster. Although the effects had crept up on me subtly, after a few weeks I was undoubtedly more upbeat, more glass half-full than empty. "Worth a try," he said.

I introduced the idea to my daughter in my best isn't-this-going-to-be-fun voice. Then took her to the art shop to choose a pretty, glittery notebook. She was sold.

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The effect on her was almost instant. I guess kids' supple, squidgy, absorbent brains can be re-trained quicker than ours. Three days in and she was noticeably chirpier, springier. Already giving more mind-space to the positive, lingering less on the negative.

She loved writing in it and wanted to add pictures. (I suppose a younger child or a reluctant writer could just do pictures and you could do the writing for them.) Yes, there was frequently gratitude for the obvious and the instantly gratifying...

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Though sometimes done quite mindfully...

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But there was also appreciation of people...

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Moments of achievement...

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And funniness...

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The feel-good factor that comes from being kind...

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Things she'd ordinarily have taken for granted...

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Or might have even complained about...

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Plus pleasure in other people's pleasure...

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In fact, she often found it hard to limit herself to just three things. "Can I have extra ones?" she asked.

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A few weeks in and she was spontaneously saying things like, "Now, what have I got to look forward to tomorrow?" and "That was a great weekend...what did you like best?"

I've since read that if you write in a Gratitude Diary every day, after a while the effects can wear off because you start to go through the motions without really 'feeling it'. So now we just do it randomly, about once a week. And it's still working.

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Nothing had changed in her life of course. You still can't swing a cat in her bedroom and our next holiday is a week in a caravan in North Wales - in winter for goodness sake.

It's just that somehow she's managing to find the good in all this awfulness [insert winky face].

Claire Potter is author of these books. Click here to view on Amazon UK.

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This post first appeared on The Quirky Parent.