Does your child sometimes things for granted? Teaching your child how to be grateful is essential, and good manners never go amiss! Learning how to say thank you nicely is a life skill you can teach your child from a young age.
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For many children, Christmas and birthdays are completely different to the way they were when I was a child. They get so many more presents and gifts, that sometimes they can even lose track of who gave them what.
With these generous and well-meaning family and friends, your child may become accustomed to treats and gifts or a little spending money tucked in their pocket from grandparents. Are they saying thank you properly? Are they becoming ‘used to’ the treats and forgetting to appreciate what’s given?
Teaching your child how to be grateful is a wonderful way to help avoid those embarrassing situations where you need to prompt your child to say ‘thank you’.
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Tips on Teaching Your Child How to be Grateful
Why should you teach your child gratitude? For a few good reasons:
- Gratitude cultivates other positive feelings such as happiness, forgiveness and patience.
- Expressing feelings of thanks can decrease stress and increase a feeling of belonging.
- A person who is grateful tends to spend less time comparing him or herself with others and feeling envious.
- It also helps people, especially children, step into someone else’s shoes and realize that another person did something nice for them even though he or she didn’t have to.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Play the Gratitude Game
This is a simple game where you can either say it out loud or have your child write these down on a bit of paper:
- A person I am thankful for
- A place I am thankful for
- A thing I am thankful for
- An event I am thankful for
- A toy I am thankful for
- A book I am thankful for
- Something in nature that I am thankful for
- A song I am thankful for
- A food I am thankful for
- A colour I am thankful for
- Something about myself I am thankful for
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Taking Things for Granted
Ask your child what they would feel without things that they take for granted. Things like electricity, clean running water, flushing toilets and so on, can make your child realise what they have and what others don’t.
At bedtime, help your child think of all the good things that happened to them during the day. As they drift off to sleep, their heart will be full of love and gratitude.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
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Teaching Your Child How to Say Thank You
A good lesson to teach your child is that saying thank you has nothing to do with liking or not liking what they have been given. So if Grandma gave your son a pair of socks he doesn’t like, that’s ok, he can still say thank you.
Remind them that the person just wants to feel appreciated and that the words ‘Thank You’ that they say to the person are like presents they are giving to the other person in return.
Every time they say thanks, they are passing on the gift of feeling appreciated and well regarded.
Another thing to teach your child is that the best thank you sentences have 3 parts:
- the actual thank you
- the other person’s name
- something about the gift
For example, “Thanks Grandma, these socks will come in handy for football” or Thanks Auntie Jane, that was really thoughtful of you to give me the writing set”.
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As your baby develops, you can say ‘Ta’ and ‘Thank You’ to get them used to the words.
Then with your toddler, instead of saying “Pick up your toys please” change it to “You picked up your teddy, thank you”. Thanking your toddler when she did something reinforces to her that ‘thank you’ is part of a positive relationship.
Saying Thank You at Home
The best role models are parents. In our house, we always thank each other for small things. If my husband brings through the washing basket, I say thanks. If my daughter fetches my purse, I say thanks. It’s the small thanks that are part of showing mutual respect to each other.
Tips for Christmas or Birthday Thank Yous
As your child opens Christmas or Birthday presents, make a quick list of who gave what as it is easy to forget when there are a lot of presents to open. Then later decide on what format the thank you should take.
For gift givers, the classic way to express thanks is writing a thank you letter. But this can sometimes end up being a chore, especially if you have a lot of givers and/or if your child isn’t enthusiastic about writing, so here are some other ideas for Christmas or birthday thank yous:
- Send a postcard, they are short and quick to fill out and everyone likes to receive a postcard
- Buy thank you cards, they are easier than writing a full letter
- If your child enjoys art or drawing, get them to draw a picture of themselves with the present to send
- Take a photo of your child with their present and send to the giver
- Have your child make a thank you video and send to the giver
- For birthday parties, a nice thank you text/message from you (the parent) to the other parents to thank them for the birthday gifts is the easiest
- Make something like cookies to gift in person
Thank Yous for Other People In Your Child’s Life
We usually say thanks to our child’s teacher with a gift at Christmas or the end of term. But what about some of the people that we sometimes take for granted? Your child might enjoy creating a little surprise thank you note for the postman, the bin man, their lollipop lady or their bus driver.
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Have your say! What’s your experience of teaching your child to be grateful? Any tips for teaching them how to say thank you? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!