Scholars, Mentors, Teachers
Dr. Jeffrey Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, specializes in studying the effects of expressing gratitude, particularly in children and adolescents. His most recent study finds that when feelings of gratitude are reinforced and nurtured regularly as part of their school curriculum and environment, children feel grateful for longer lengths of time and are more inclined to perform acts that reflect this gratitude.
His new book, Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character, (Templeton Press, Feb. 2014) written with Dr. Giacomo Bono, an assistant professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, teaches parents and other adults how to make children and adolescents grateful using over 30 scientifically-supported concrete strategies. He also co-authors a blog, “Making Grateful Kids”, for Psychology Today magazine.
Previous studies by Dr. Froh involved more traditional interventions on children, such as having them keep a gratitude journal and count their blessings. In a study he published in 2008, Dr. Froh found that middle school students who counted their blessings and acknowledged the things they were grateful for reported higher levels of well-being than those who did not. In 2009, Dr. Froh was involved in studies that showed women are better able than men to feel and express gratitude towards others and, as a result, are more likely to reap the social and personal benefits that come from such expressions. He also found that among adolescents, girls expressed gratitude more readily than boys, but boys may actually derive more of a benefit when they are able to do so.
Of teaching at Hofstra, Dr. Froh said in a recent interview, “I love mentoring students, taking an interest in them, and steering them towards a path to purpose. For me the number one practice is keeping the human touch alive because many students simply want to feel valued and know that people care about them. So I try very hard to get to know my students on a personal level. This creates a nurturing environment where my students are comfortable being themselves in the classroom and taking risks with their contributions. This sets the stage for students to not just memorize a bunch of facts, but to apply what they learn to their lives and really squeeze the juice out of class.
"I love mentoring students, taking an interest in them, and steering them towards a path to purpose."
His book, Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character (Templeton Press, Feb. 2014) written with Dr. Giacomo Bono, an adjunct professor in the California State University system, teaches parents and other adults with kids in their lives how to make children and adolescents grateful by using over 30 scientifically-supported concrete strategies. It’s only natural that Dr. Froh’s work on the book and in this area of study has found its way into his own home life. As the father of two young children, he places a high priority on instilling gratefulness in his son and daughter and he enjoys the results when he sees his son write a thank you note or his little girl pointing out the beauty of a sunset.
A major challenge to feeling gratitude and being “in the moment” is the proliferation of technology in the household. “When we’re with our kids,” says Dr. Froh, “it’s critical that we be with them physically and mentally. This may require that we shut off our smart phones during these precious moments. Doing so helps us focus only on our child which, in turn, helps us strengthen our bond with them.”
He believes that – given the opportunity – children are very resourceful at finding ways to entertain themselves when technology is absent. When his own children were much younger, the Froh family went on a vacation that involved a 16-hour car ride, with only coloring, game playing and looking out the window to keep the kids occupied. Going “old school” in situations like that provides moments, he says, for family bonding and memory-making that would not be possible otherwise.
When asked how parents can instill gratitude in children, he suggests, “I think the most important thing parents can do is to model for their kids how to express gratitude, give thanks, and be generous. Our children want to be like us. That’s a fact. Expressing gratitude verbally, through writing, and through small gifts or acts of reciprocity are all ways to teach children how to become grateful. Doing this will help make your appreciation for the goodness in your life more public, showing your kids that blessings abound and that being thankful is a valued attitude. A little tutoring goes a long way in fostering their gratitude development. And parents need to remember, little eyes are watching them.”
Jeff Froh in the News
Jan. 31, 2014
Brigham Young University Radio – The Matt Townsend Show
Making Grateful Kids
Dec. 23, 2013
Wall Street Journal (password protected)
Raising Children With an Attitude of Gratitude
Dec. 19, 2012
This holiday season, give your kids the gift of gratitude
Nov. 21, 2012
Froh: Gratitude isn’t only for Thanksgiving
Nov. 21, 2011
Teaching kids to be grateful may have long-term benefits even though it’s not easy”