How To Encourage Thankfulness By Being Thankful

Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to exhibit good manners. One of these is thankfulness. Most parents can't even begin to count the number of times they have given their children the prompt "what do you say?" or "say thank you." We buy box games, we make up games and provide all kinds of incentives to try to help our children to learn and remember when a thank you is an appropriate response. Of course, as parents and teachers of our children we also model thankfulness around other people so that our children can learn from our example. While all of these are good things to do, the one area where we often fall short is when dealing one on one with our own kids.

Recognizing Our Children

Often we forget to say thank you to our children for the things that we should acknowledge. For instance, when our children do their chores exceptionally well or do them without being reminded, do we tell them "thank you" or do we neglect to because it's something that they are expected to do anyway? All adults like to be recognized for a job well done at their place of their employment. It gives a sense of satisfaction and appreciation that we just couldn't get any other way. The same holds true for our kids. They like to be recognized and thanked and when they begin to realize how good it feels to be given a sincere "thank you", they will also begin to understand how it makes others feel when they say "thank you" to them. This gives them a practical understanding of the importance and enjoyment of saying thank you. This will not only help them to remember to say thank you without a prompt, but will actually give them great enjoyment in saying it because they understand that it is something that causes other to appreciate them. It moves thankfulness from the realm of a "it's just something we do to be polite" to "it's something that blesses others and ultimately blesses me as well."

Opportunities to Affirm Your Children

So when is it appropriate to say "thank you" to our kids?
  • As mentioned before, doing chores well or without being reminded
  • Spontaneous hugs or other shows of affection
  • When a child helps carry in groceries, put away toys or puts away laundry, whether they were asked or not
  • When a child is quiet while you are on the phone or engaged in a conversation with someone else
  • When the child does an errand for you inside or out of the house
  • When they demonstrate other good character traits such as honesty, compassion, generosity, or forgiveness, especially when they are interacting with siblings
There is not one child who would rather hear "thank you" more from anyone than from their parents. The sense of satisfaction they gain will make a lasting impression on them of what it feels like to others when they express thankfulness and soon there will be no need for prompts or incentives because your children will just become thankful. There are many tools we can use to show how to encourage thankfulness in our kids, but their greatest lesson will come from their parents. In his book, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” Our children are one of those "small (but yet really not small) gifts, so when we are thankful for the blessing that they are to us, our children are not the only ones who benefit. We do too!
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