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Archive for December, 2010

Teaching children how to be grateful is a gift that will benefit them throughout their lifetime.

December 18th, 2010

Gratitude, a sense of appreciation, joy, or thankfulness, leads to better emotional and physical health in adults and in children. While the bulk of research concerning gratitude has been conducted with adults, newer research has explored its impact on children.

Studies involving children as young as 10 years of age have shown that children also reap positive effects from being thankful. In one such study, adolescents who were grateful showed greater optimism, greater satisfaction with their family, friends, community, school and self, and an overall positive outlook on their life, including positive thoughts concerning their friends’ and families’ support. Research with older adolescents revealed that gratitude is positively associated with life satisfaction, social integration, and academic achievement, and negatively related to envy, depression, and materialism. Other studies have shown that children who express or acknowledge gratitude sleep better and have stronger bonds and relationships with others; these advantages also correlate with children’s development of competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring/compassion.

On the other hand, research shows that youth who are ungrateful are less satisfied with their lives and are more apt to be aggressive and engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as early or frequent sexual activities, substance use, poor eating habits, physical inactivity, and poor academic performance.

Additionally, studies involving adults consistently show that grateful people are less likely to respond with anger after being hurt by others, have better coping mechanisms, and are more willing to help others than those who are not grateful. Interestingly, studies have shown that some of the positive benefits of gratitude last between 3 and 6 months.

Research has proven that individuals of all ages can learn how to become more grateful. Here are a few simple tasks that can help you and your child practice gratitude:
• write a letter of appreciation for someone.
• make a list of up to five things for which you are grateful (i.e., give thanks at meal time or bed time). Individuals who did this reported having more gratitude, optimism, and life satisfaction, as well as less negative emotions, compared to individuals who focused on things they found annoying.
• keep a journal of daily positive events or blessings. Those who kept a gratitude journal had a more positive outlook than those who did not keep a journal.
• think gratefully by acknowledging all of the positive things in your life. Individuals who focused on the positive occurrences in their lives reported more grateful thinking, gratitude, and happiness.

Because research demonstrates that gratitude is a positive state of mind that can be learned or enhanced, we should regularly focus on the positive occurrences in our lives and teach our children how to do the same. Research has provided us with this gift of knowledge about the importance of gratitude. Therefore, we should count our blessings for this research and pass this knowledge on to our children so they can become physically and emotionally healthier.

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Infants learn more vocabulary words from parental interactions than from watching commercial DVD’s

December 9th, 2010

A recent study revealed that babies learn vocabulary words better from interactions with their parents than from watching commercial DVDs which claim to enhance infants’ vocabularies. Researchers tested infants’ (12-18 months old) acquisition of new vocabulary words by comparing infants’ experiences with a commercial DVD designed and promoted for building vocabulary in infants.

To test the infants’ learning of vocabulary words, researchers constructed four learning environments. One learning environment included infants who watched a commercial DVD (designed and promoted to enhance infants’ vocabularies) with their parents at least 5 times per week for 4 weeks, for at least 10 or more hours of viewing time. Parents were asked to engage with their infants in a manner similar to what they would normally do when watching an educational video with their infant. The second learning environment consisted of infants who watched the video for the same amounts of time as the prior condition, but the infants did not engage in any parental interactions. The third learning environment was comprised of parents who were asked to interact with their infants by teaching them a list of 25 words that were shown in the video; infants in this scenario did not watch any videos. Finally, infants in the last condition were considered the “control” group—their parents did not receive any instructions and the infants and parents conducted their normal every day activities.

Interestingly, only the infants who did not watch any videos and only had their parents teaching them new vocabulary words (third learning environment) showed statistically significant increases in their vocabularies. Infants had the highest level of learning when their parents made a concerted effort to teach their children the same words during everyday activities without the aid of any videos. These findings are also consistent with prior research.

In conclusion, the researchers hypothesize that some parents may be overestimating the usefulness of videos to teach infants vocabulary words; in fact, it appears more likely that increases in infants’ vocabularies are the result of normal child development…not the videos infants are watching. Thus, parents who wish to boost their infant’s vocabulary should interact with their infant and concentrate on teaching them vocabulary words through their everyday interactions, as opposed to having their child watch DVD’s.

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