“Why Teach Kids to Say Thank You”
(excerpted from my book: “30 Days to Taming Your Kid’s Tongue”)
“Ingratitude to man is ingratitude to God.” So said Samuel ibn Naghrela , Jewish scholar & poet.
Story has it that when Uncle Bill offered Little Johnny an orange, he accepted it without a word.
“Little Johnny”, his mother asked, “What are you going to say?”
“Peel it!” he exclaimed.
Parents, teachers, and most individuals who regularly work with or around children would readily agree that there is an ingratitude epidemic among today’s young people. It seems that most parents have forgotten that teaching children to express appreciation for the gifts or kindnesses others extend to them is basic to good manners. It pays to begin early on so that being thankful becomes a habit that follows your children throughout their entire lives. Here are just a few of the reasons why children must learn to say “Thank you”:
- It subconsciously teaches them that they are not entitled to the things they are given.
- It teaches them to acknowledge another person’s generosity or sacrifice on their behalf.
- It makes them more conscious of being mannerly in other ways.
It makes the giver feel good to be appreciated.
While you need to train your children to get into the habit of expressing appreciation to others, it is more important to teach them to develop a heart of gratitude. To this end, some parents proactively expose their children to the lifestyle of the less fortunate by taking them on a trip to the disadvantaged side of town or the other side of the world to see how the less fortunate live. They know how easy it is for their kids to get comfortable in their little bubble of abundance and develop an erroneous view of the real world. Once Jesus healed ten men suffering from leprosy—one of the most isolating and dreaded diseases of the day. He expressed dismay when only one of them, who happened to be foreigner, returned to say thank you.
He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:16-18 NLT
Good parents remind their children that every gift comes from God (James 1:17); thus, when they are ungrateful to others, they are actually ungrateful to God.
When you fail to teach your children to say “Thank you”, the consequences are always negative:
- It gives them the false impression that the world revolves around their needs, their desires, and their whims.
- It leaves a vacuum in their character where respect should be.
- It lessens their chances of making positive and influential first impressions.
- It makes them selfish and thoughtless when it comes to the rights and desires of others.
- It puts them at a greater risk for failed marriages and poor parent/child relationships.
- It lessens their chances for job advancement as an adult because they are unable or unwilling to express appreciation.
Manners matter and there is no time like the present to make instilling them a priority in your child’s life. Here are a few practical ways you can teach your children to make saying
“Thank you” part of their normal behavior:
Be consistent in saying “Thank you” to your children, your spouse, and everyone else in your circle of interaction.
- Be consistent in expecting and requiring your children to say “Thank you” to you and any one who compliments them or extends a kind deed to them. You may even have to prep small children before their birthday parties or special times to say “Thank you” for every gift received. Even if they don’t like the gift or already own a similar item, “Thank you” is the only appropriate response.Teach them that they are not only thanking the person for the gift but for the effort in selecting it, buying it, and getting it to them.
- Affirm their use of “Thank you” with “You’re welcome”.
- Explain that being appreciated motivates people to continue their generosity.