say “thank you”

September 19, 2008 at 4:06 am 3 comments

Cultivating gratitude

When we ask our children to “say thank you”, we are in training mode (think dog obedience). Our intention may be to help them learn to express gratitude and appreciation, however, this way of *teaching* gratitude doesn’t work. Not only is this usually more about our own fear of being judged by the other parent, but it also may be training our children to ignore their own hearts in order to appease and even ‘lie’.

Do you ever remember a time when you were a child and someone gave you something that you didn’t like? Imagine Aunt Mabel giving 5 year old Joey a coloring book that he thinks is for “babies”. He feels so disappointed, because not only is the gift not something he likes, but being a big boy isn’t recognized or honoured. This is heartbreaking for a child. And if we tell them to “say thank you”, then we close the door on them, in a way, because we make it less safe for them to share their true feelings with us.

What was your situation? How did you feel when you were asked to say thank you for something you weren’t thankful about?

We want to encourage honesty AND gratitude. We want our children to listen to their hearts and speak their own truth. We want them to feel connection and trust and to know that we do truly honour them.

When ‘say thank you’ is about to roll off your lips, pause. Let go of that fear of what the other person may be thinking. If you have a need to connect with the other parent, or child, then YOU express your gratitude. Your modelling of gratitude in an honest way is powerful learning for your child. Instead of training your child, trust in their true desire to relate to others and allow their gratitude to emerge naturally. Then, when they do say thank you in their own way, you can feel the sweetness of that.

You can gently guide your child by talking with them about different ways of expressing thankfulness, once you are alone together. Ask questions…you didn’t like the gift, and was there anything you did feel thankful for?

Begin a gratitude practice. At night as you are going to sleep, begin saying all the things that YOU are grateful for. Do this for you, in the presence of your child and just see what happens. No forcing, just let it flow. Gratitude is a delicious way to bring us back into our natural state of JOY. This is a great gift to share with our children, greater than merely training them in ‘politeness’.

We each have a very strong, NATURAL desire to contribute to the well-being of others. Allow your children to remain in that natural state of flow without *training* them out of it. It requires some unlearning on our part, to return to our truthful hearts.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

the fake parent i totally disagree

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. klaroche  |  September 19, 2008 at 4:07 am

    I absolutely disagree with this. I have been a spoiled gift reciever in my life and I don’t feel that it is civil or polite to only encourage gratitude for gifts that the child likes or wants. The fact that someone has gone out of their way to give a gift is enough of a reason to express appreciation for their thoughtful gesture. Yes, modeling that is very appropriate, but “training” the young child to express appreciation is also a valuable social skill.
    A child who learns to trust and honor their feelings is one who can also learn to honor and value the feelings of others. Let’s cultivate more of that and not raise self-absorbed egotists!

  • 2. li  |  September 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Our one year old has started signing “thank you” and I have been enjoying that so much I have been saying “say thank you” to him daily – when another kid gives him a ball or when another mom forces their kid to give him a turn on a toy…

    Anyways, I really enjoyed your article and in the future I will ask him if he wants to say thank you (and thank people myself). As the previous commenter points out, we don’t want to encourage an attitude of disrespect or expecting people to give him things, but I think more importantly we don’t want to teach him that other people’s feelings are more important than his. Thanks for the food for thought!

  • 3. klaroche  |  September 29, 2008 at 3:24 am

    dear ‘disagree’
    thank you so much for sharing your feelings and reactions to this newsletter. it gives me the opportunity to clarify. i believe that we are closer in our views/desires than you may realize. i think we both agree thta helping a child honor and value the feelings of themselves AND others is desirable.

    we are disagreeing about the strategy, the how.

    i am saying modeling is enough and training will backfire. you are saying that training is necessary.

    it is sad to me that you think that without training, children will become “self-absorbed egotists”. i couldn’t disagree more. i believe children are inherently loving, kind, considerate, compassionate, friendly, caring and that they want, very much, to get along well with others. with that basic belief, there isn’t as much doing TO them necessary. being WITH them and showing them how we express our inherent consideration of others is all that is needed.

    with love


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