Etiquette Coach Laura Cotton’s article published in July 2017 CARE Magazine distributed with Trinidad & Tobago Guardian newspaper.
“Thank you.” Saying it is truly magic. Those two simple words can lift someone’s spirit, foster relationships, instill feelings of belonging, infuse an awareness of appreciation, improve happiness, and strengthen emotional well-being. And the magic happens for BOTH the person showing gratitude and the person on the receiving end.
When you say thank you, you feel good and your perception of gratitude increases. When you hear a sincere thank you, your happiness increases and you are more likely to show gratitude to others. It’s a lovely, warm-fuzzy, positive cycle.
So when you invest the time and make the effort to teach your child the value of appreciation and thankfulness, you will arm them with emotional strength that will improve their quality of life, now and in the future.
Here are my top tips to teach children how to show appreciation.
- Be sure “thank you” is said at home
Courtesy begins at home. Make “thank you” a commonly used phrase within the walls of your house. Parents who verbalize appreciation to other adults and the children in the home are setting an example. You can remind your kids to say “thank you” all you want but unless they hear you say “thanks” and see you show appreciation, it won’t matter much. Your child pays much closer attention to your behavior than she does to your advice, so practice what you preach. Say “thank you” often, even for small things.
- Prompt your child to say “thank you” if he or she forgets
When you give your child his lunch, sippy cup, toy, or anything, pleasantly remind him to say “thank you Mommy” if he doesn’t remember himself. It takes a bit of dedication on your part (and sometimes for a while) but the end result is that the consistent reminders will eventually plant in his brain and he will say “thank you” himself without the prompting.
- Recognize everyday courtesies
Most people make an effort to express their thanks for gifts, favors, awards and such but it is important to show appreciation for the everyday courtesies. Help your children recognize when someone does something nice for them, like share a snack or to allow them to pass in a room. If you are with your child, you should say thank you first and encourage your little one to say the same. Speak openly about seeing the kind actions of others. Soon your little darling will notice the civility in others on her own and show appreciation for it.
- Practice random acts of kindness
You don’t have to have a reason to do something nice for someone, like share some tea, send a nice text, or make dinner. But sometimes an event like a holiday, birthday, end of the school year, or International Siblings Day can give us a little motivation. My daughter loves to bake and so we are in the kitchen often, which mean we often have a little something sweet around the house. We have made it a habit to always make enough to share with someone outside of our house: a neighbor, a classmate, a teacher, a coach or friend. My little lady takes such joy in sharing and delivering the treat. But I think my joy in watching her is greater.
- Write thank you notes
While a thank you message sent via email or text is great, nothing shows you really care like a handwritten note. Even if your child is too young to write, a little scribble still counts. You can fill in a simple “Thank you for helping me/for the birthday gift/for being my teacher/for thinking of me” message if necessary. If you encourage this nicety early, your child will have it as part of his civility arsenal throughout life. And the art of the thank you note always draws a positive reaction and will always benefit your child now matter how old he is.
Laura Cotton is a mother of two, stepmother of three, and a licensed etiquette trainer with Emily Post Institute. With more than 15 years of experience, her passion is to help people gain confidence with her Pearl Strategies image development workshops. She may be contacted at 757-1017 or email@example.com