In a 2011 American Psychological Association report entitled Measuring Gratitude in Youth: Assessing the Psychometric Properties of Adult Gratitude Scales in Children and Adolescents, a group of authors report that real generosity and gratitude can be measured by looking at four different aspects: intensity, frequency, density, and span. This report indicated that when children give out of real generosity they relive the feelings of giving several times throughout a day for several days. They do not need rewards or recognition.
The INTENSITY of gratitude. Something as simple as a blue satin dress can help a young girl learn about the intensity of giving. Too often, the charitable clothing donations that people make are forced, or simply a way to clean out a closet. For one young piano student who was playing in a recital far from home, however, she learned the value of charitable clothing donations in a much more personal way. At the end of a week long piano camp, recitals were held on two different nights. The young girls with the beautiful blue formal gown had been planning her recital outfit for months. With matching shoes and hair accessories, she was thrilled to step on the stage in the prettiest gown she had ever owned. Another young pianist who would be playing on the second night had never been to one of these recitals before, and she was a little less than thrilled at the simple dress her mother had packed. The two girls had spent quite a bit of time together during the week, however, and the girl with the blue gown knew what she would be doing when they returned to the room after the recital. Telling her mother of her plan, the young girl simply walked across the hall in the dorms and presented her just worn dress to the girl who would be playing the next night. Not a loan, but a gift, the older piano student beamed from ear to ear when the next night the younger pianist wore the blue satin dress on the stage.
The FREQUENCY of gratitude. Too often we think of charitable donations as a way to, at least twice a year, to clean out our closets. We know, for instance, that a man’s overcoat or suit is worth approximately $60 as a tax write-off, a coffee maker is generally worth $4 to $15 as a tax write-off, so these small financial benefits encourage us to give more frequently. The frequency of gratitude, however, does not rely on how often you clean our your dressers, cupboards, and drawers and make household donations and charitable clothing donations. In the Measuring Gratitude in Youth: Assessing the Psychometric Properties of Adult Gratitude Scales in Children and Adolescents study the frequency has to do with how often the giver reexperiences the gift giving. In a real gift from the heart, for instance, the giver will several times throughout the day relive the feeling of the gift.
The DENSITY of gratitude. Again, the density of a gift does not simply refer to how many items you shove in a box when you are making charitable clothing donations. Instead, the density of gratitude is an attempt to measure the empathy and personal involvement in mutually beneficial relationships. When, for instance, your children box up some of their favorite childhood books to share with a family at church who has just lost everything in a fire, your children are not counting the number of the books, they are giving away the feeling of comfort they find in these special stories.
The SPAN of gratitude. When your children still remember two weeks later that special feeling that you had when you gifted the blue satin dress or those treasured stories you can be certain that they are experiencing a lengthy span of gratitude. And if that is still a warm feeling that they include in their prayers months later when they continue to pray for the recipients of those gifts the span is even greater.
We live in a particular time when the world would do well if parents taught their children the intensity, frequency, density, and span of gratitude.
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