We think of gratitude as a way to be happier and more optimistic, but science says counting your blessings does a whole lot more than that. Consciously practicing gratitude has been shown to help you sleep better, control your spending, and even be more patient.

And apparently, this simple but mighty practice might be useful in another unexpected arena. On the TED Ideas blog recently, financial planner Ellen Rogin makes the case that gratitude is the essential secret ingredient if you want to teach your kids to be financially responsible.

The most powerful lessons parents teach are often the silent ones.

Financial experts generally agree that parents play an outsize role in determining how their kids will handle money later in life. This impact isn't seen only in the explicit lessons they pass on about saving and spending. Our parents also influence the unconscious beliefs about money that shape their children's futures -- for instance that money will solve all our problems, or conversely, that having a lot of money makes you bad. 

Much of these beliefs are formed by the environment in which we're raised and how we observe our parents handling money. If your mom and dad were always obsessed with whether the neighbors were impressed by their latest shiny purchase, that's going to leave an imprint on you (probably for the worse, psychologists say). If you heard repeatedly that rich people are nasty and selfish, you're likely going to feel weird about getting wealthy yourself.

But according to Rogin there is at least one simple thing parents can consciously choose to do that will shape their children's ideas about money for the better. Practice gratitude with your kids, and you lay the foundation for future financial responsibility and success. 

How gratitude re-frames our beliefs about money.

"One of the best ways to lower anxiety levels about money is to focus on what you're thankful for," Rogin explains. Her family took this approach when her kids were small, asking each family member to share five things they were grateful for each night.

That bedtime ritual doesn't seem like it's about money, but it nudges children to put their material wants in perspective so that, in the happy event they become materially successful in life, they can be satisfied with what they have rather than constantly, miserably striving for more -- a sadly common outcome, as most of us have observed.

Gratitude also "moves our attention towards what we want as opposed to what we don't want, and directs our thinking [away] from scarcity," Rogin notes. Thinking about money as an opportunity to be grown rather than a problem to be feared gives your kids a more solid basis for building a successful financial future.

Interested in hearing more ideas on how to instill healthy ideas about money in your kids? Check out Rogin's short but fascinating talk.

Published on: Jan 30, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.