“Giving is an expression of gratitude for our blessings.” – Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen
It’s that time of the year when we have the opportunity to reflect on the people that have shared valuable time with our children and influenced them in ways we are grateful for. Even the challenges can be seen as something to be thankful for. At a time when gift making and giving becomes a special time for families and classrooms, I think it is important to never underestimate the power of words to help children gain new awareness around what it feels like to be grateful and what that might look and sound like for them. Gratitude is a blessing and supports children to come from a place of abundance not lack. There is nothing quite like gratitude to nurture in children an abundance mindset.
The Power of a Meaningful Thank You can go a very long way in helping children to practice gratitude. The praise we give children can be an opportunity to give appreciative and descriptive praise. Praise that supports children’s confidence and trust from the inside out.
Like all life skills, encouraging your child to say thank you and to feel gratitude is a process. Nurturing gratitude comes with practice, modelling, acknowledging and experiencing. Regardless of whether or not children appear thankful, they can learn to express their gratitude in meaningful ways. Nurturing gratitude goes well beyond making children say a customary “Thank you”.
Have a lovely time exploring the many ways to give a meaningful thank you. Introducing the awareness of a meaningful thank you within your family is a gift in itself.
So how do we do it?
How can we help our child to feel the enthusiasm for giving, feel grateful when they are given something, or feel thankful for small everyday happenings – like food and clothing?
A simple and effective way to encourage gratitude within your family is with a ‘Meaningful Thank-you’. Giving meaningful thank-yous, brings greater self-awareness and strengthens relationships with others through appreciation, kindness and respect. It is a special way to show deep appreciation for even the smallest acts.
There are many ways to give a meaningful thank you, with letters, cards, and a hug, a pat on the back, thumbs up, phone calls and gifts. The most simple and cost effective way is with words by verbally expressing in a meaningful way what you are thankful for.
A meaningful “Thank You”
Often we hear ourselves say “Thanks a lot”, or Thanks for that”, or the customary “Say thank you” to encourage our child to show gratitude, courtesy or respect. While thanking can be a great habit to teach our children, these words can take on a whole new meaning by linking a virtue with the thank you.
Thanks for what?
Saying thank you is an opportunity to express what we are thankful for. It can be a meaningful way to give purposeful praise to our children and to encourage what we value. It can help introduce many other virtues into your child’s language and world. It grows self-confidence in kids and helps them to understand the cause and effect nature of the choices we make. It helps to give meaningful praise, replacing the ‘good girl’ or ‘well done’ phrases that are more directed at pleasing rather than growing responsibility, values-knowledge or self-awareness.
Examples of meaningful words/phrases/praise
- Thank you for being so helpful and packing away your toys.
- Thank you for being considerate and sharing with your sister, it was a very kind and fair thing to do.
- Thank you for being thoughtful and giving me a gift.
- Thank you for your honesty, I trust you.
- Thank you for being gentle with my kitten and keeping her safe.
- Thank you for your patience while I get your dinner ready, you waited so calmly.
Things to be mindful of
- What are you thankful for?
- What do you value?
- Which virtue do you choose to encourage? Kindness, love, respect, patience etc…
- How do I show my gratitude?
- Who could I say thank you to?
- How do I encourage my child to be grateful?
- What makes me feel grateful?
- Who do I know that is full of gratitude?
- Where are the opportunities to role model gratitude?
Our first opportunity to role model gratitude is to be on the look out to say thank you to your child for their efforts, actions and intentions. Just as we encourage and value the skill of learning to read, count and ride a bike, we can also encourage and value expressing gratitude and developing character. It takes many years, many teachers and experiences to learn to read. It also takes many years, many teachers and experiences to nurture virtues and character strengths within your child. You are your child’s most valuable teacher.
May gratitude be a blessing to your family.
Happy, whole-hearted parenting