The Blog

Moany, Groany Kids? Try This

"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.

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.

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...

Though sometimes done quite mindfully...

But there was also appreciation of people...

Moments of achievement...

And funniness...

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

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

Or might have even complained about...

Plus pleasure in other people's pleasure...

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

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.

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.

This post first appeared on The Quirky Parent.