6 Ways to Help Children (and Adults) Say “Thank You”

Or How to Help You be Thankful too!

It’s the worst part of winter right now. The days are still short, still to cold to play outside every day, and there is no Christmas to be excited about. We are living in dreary dark days and needing graciousness for one another.

I don’t think most of us enjoy haranguing our sons and daughters to say “thank you.” Repetition, groans, eye rolls, and not genuine thankfulness all go with making kids say “thank you.”

But I noticed something early on with my firstborn is that I didn’t have to prompt him very much to say “thank you” if I was consistently using it like I should. I also noticed when I stop, look a child in the eye and give them an unexpected encouraging word, they encourage each other in the same way.

Look, different kids are different and some may need more prompting than others. (I do have to prompt a bit in public with people they are unfamiliar with), but for the most part if my kids are not being gracious to each other and to me, I need to take a look in the mirror and correct my own behavior. It still amazes me how frequently my kids will thank me or my husband for things. Several times a week one of my kids will thank me for making dinner! Dinner! Of course, I would make it anyway, but I have to admit it warms my heart to hear him thank me.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true too. When I am harsh, impatient and grumpy, I hear the same words, the same tone, the same cadence in my children’s voices.

Practical “Thank You”Points

Here are some ideas that have helped me and my family and they may help yours too! These ideas aren’t just for kids, it’s amazing what little graciousness can do for a group of adults as well.

  • Say “thank you” to your children and your spouse. They are going to follow our pattern most of the time.
  • Point out to your children kind things others do for them. I try to point out to my children when a sibling has showed love or care in a way that wasn’t expected or required of them.
  • Don’t make it a fight or a huge issue at least with small children. They are learning, it’s many steps forward and backwards.
  • Find ways to talk about kind things people have done for you and how you are thankful.
  • Take a moment at the end of the day to ask for family prayer requests and what we are thankful for.
  • Be kind to the public. How we treat people we don’t have to be kind to says a lot about your character. The stressed out waitress who has been on her feet all day, Be kind to her. The person who collects your property tax at the courthouse? He just works there, you aren’t the first person to complain about the tax rate that day to him. Thank them for working with the public.  The teen working their first job and a little slow at the register, be encouraging. Thank the grocery clerk who went and found you 12 cans of chicken stock the day before Thanksgiving. I am not saying there is never a reason to complain about service, but most of the time, it’s the customer being rude and mean about something the low level service folks can’t change.

Don’t Allow other Adults to be Rude

I won’t make this a bullet point, but don’t allow your peers to be rude either. I had an older female relative who is now passed, but used to embarrass me by her rude behavior in public. I was only about 12 at the time, but I was mortified that people would associate her behavior with me. So I decided to make up for it. When she was rude to the waitstaff, I would stop the staff and thank them for waiting on us, I knew it wasn’t easy and I appreciated it. When she would stomp off in a huff because a clerk at the department store couldn’t find what she wanted, I would go up to the clerk and thank him waiting on us, and doing the best he could. I only addressed it in this way so as to relieve my own embarrassment, but what happened it that my relative became embarrassed by her own behavior because I refused to play along. She was always polite to wait staff and clerks for the rest of her life (at least when I was around). It didn’t even take a discussion or a confrontation, I just refused to go along with it.

And yes, a lot of days this can be difficult. But it’s a great habit for everyone to get into, just like brushing your teeth. Habits shape and mold us, so let’s be shaped by graciousness. And there will be many many days when we don’t have graciousness and neither do our children. Those are the best days to stop, pray, and ask God for the ability to love each other well. For this flows from Him, not of ourselves.

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