My Czech mother started training the six of us with the thank-you process early.
Early in our childhood, she taught us to say “Thanks for the warm kolaches” as they came piping hot out of the oven every holiday. There is so much value to these childhood lessons.
As adults with children, nieces, nephews, Godchildren, and grandchildren of our own, we demonstrate thankfulness when receiving holiday gifts and kind gestures throughout the year.
Set an example
Research suggests that merely talking about graciousness, saying “thank you,” and being considerate of others isn’t nearly as effective as demonstrating the behavior we want our children to emulate. As our children grow up, take every opportunity to demonstrate graciousness by saying “thank you” and “thanks,” so they learn to mimic us. Remember, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Train them between 4-7 years of age
Kids may not adore every gift they receive. However, it’s important for them to express appreciation. Start training kiddos as early as the age of 4, and emphasize manners through the age of 7 years old. This is a crucial stage in child development for setting the stage for a lifetime of good manners.
Talking to our children about expectations of gratitude and thankfulness encourages dialogue. We all recognize that too much coaching has unintended consequences. When guiding young ones, authenticity is crucial. Encouraging them to use their own words so their response reflects genuineness.
Some parents agree on subtle cues in advance, a wink, an ear tug, or a cough, to trigger well-mannered responses from kiddos who forget. Prompting them with “Thanks, Nana!” and “Thank you, grandpa” is important for reinforcing this lifelong habit.
Understanding thank you
Helping kids understand the meaning behind different expressions of gratitude, is a more effective strategy. Explain to your child that thanking someone represents your appreciation for the time spent thinking of you or doing something for you. With that perspective, no matter what the gift is, their gratitude will be genuine every time.
Gratitude is a blessing — share the wealth!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural consultant, an international protocol expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is accredited in intercultural management, is the resident etiquette expert for CBS Austin’s We Are Austin, regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, The New York Times, and numerous other media. She is the best-selling, international award-winning author of Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2015 and recipient of the British Airways International Trade, Investment & Expansion Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.