Thankfulness comes from a heart of appreciation and gratitude. This value is something as parents we need to cultivate in our children. In a society where so much is just expected and handed to children, they can easily loose sight of the fact that someone is ultimately responsible for making it happen.
So, how do we cultivate the art of being grateful, which by the way equates with good manners and kindness? How do we make children aware that the world is not all about them and them getting what they want when they want it.
When children are very little, start by modelling thankfulness to them. You say to them when they have done something, even as simple as a smile, “Thank you for that lovely smile.” You will be demonstrating to them your gratitude for who they are and what they did. Once they are in the highchair begin to address the issue of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. When they are asking for something say to them, “What do you say?” Even before they can fully say the words there will be a way of communicating appreciation.
As a family we tried to always eat dinner together. Meal times were a lot of fun with the conversations getting more sophisticated as the family got older. But the children never left the table without saying, “Thank you for the food, may I be excused?”
Waiting for something can also create thankfulness. When a child gets everything when they want it that becomes the expectation. It is good for a child to have to wait. If they want a particular toy you might say, “No, not right now, perhaps for your birthday”. You might even make them work for it rather than simply handing it to them.
Then, be their conscience by reminding them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as often as you need to. The ultimate goal is the good manners would be internalised and would just flow out of who they are. When this happens, you and the people around your children will appreciate their gratitude.