Parents don't think their kids are as grateful as they should be, poll finds

Children today aren't grateful enough, their parents say. The University of Michigan has some ideas on how to nurture gratitude in children.

(CNN)The season of giving thanks can't come quickly enough for some parents.

Four in five parents who responded to a poll from the University of Michigan Health say children today are not grateful enough.
Parents who responded to the poll say they are teaching their children the magic words, "please and thank you." However, when it comes to actions over words, the children -- and parents -- could be falling short, said Sarah Clark, research scientist at the University of Michigan and co-director of the poll.
    Nearly all parents say it's possible to teach children gratitude, and three-fourths of parents say teaching gratitude is a priority. The most common ways parents teach children gratitude are "please and thank you," followed by enforcing chores. Just over one-third of parents use strategies like donating toys or clothes and saying a prayer of thanks.
      "My hope is a poll like this causes some parents to stop and think about, 'Are we being purposeful about teaching our kids how to be grateful?'" Clark said.
      The national sample includes parents of children 4 to 10 years old. The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan conducts monthly polls to observe child health. The poll "purposefully" did not define gratitude; Clark said parents had to bring their own interpretation of the word.
      The poll's report also provided five strategies to nurture gratitude in children -- including saying thank you, discussing gratitude, helping with family chores, volunteering and donating.

        Modeling behavior

        Expressing gratitude can improve mental health for both children and adults, studies have found. But children don't develop gratitude automatically -- parents need to model and create strategies to teach children these behaviors, Clark said. Volunteering and community service can help children see what they should be thankful for, and what they can do for others, the report said.
        Emily Conder, a research scientist and doctoral student in Vanderbilt University's psychology and human development department, published a study about how children can develop negative biases toward people after overhearing negative words. Children can model behaviors from indirect sources as well.
        "It's important to remember as parents that modeling comes from you and also comes from what's on TV and what they're hearing from other sources," Conder said.
        Parents can also play a role in how children process and express emotions, said