Teaching Children To Express Gratitude

by , M. Ed., Priceless Parenting (sign up for monthly parenting newsletter and receive 20+ printable charts for kids and parents)

Boy with birthday present

You are responsible for teaching your children to say "please" and "thank you". This basic social skill is critical in showing respect for others.

It takes plenty of prompting and teaching when your kids are young. It’s worth the effort because developing the skill of showing appreciation will benefit your kids as they get older. It’s essential in maintaining relationships.

Showing a Lack of Appreciation

It can be challenging for your kids to consider other people’s feelings. Part of showing genuine appreciation involves being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When children haven’t fully developed this skill, it can cause problems.

For example, one aunt explained how hard she worked to find neat gifts for her three nephews. When opening the gifts they would often say things like "I don't really like this." or "This isn't what I wanted." The aunt's feelings were hurt by these remarks. Unfortunately the parents did not step in to help their sons learn that these types of responses were completely inappropriate.

At another holiday gathering children were wildly opening gifts without paying much attention to who the gift was from never mind actually thanking the person for the gift. The children threw aside each gift and anxiously started tearing the wrapping from the next gift. Again the parents failed to set up appropriate rules or expectations for the gift opening.

Teaching How To Show Appreciation

It's critical to teach your children how to politely handle situations involving gifts. It can be helpful to sit down with your kids ahead of time and discuss the importance of showing their thankfulness. Discussing and practicing what to say under various situations can help prepare your kids to act graciously.

What might you tell your kids to do in the situation where they receive a gift they really aren't excited about? If the gift giver is right there, it might be a simple thank you with a hug. Your child can always thank the person for their thoughtfulness in giving the gift.

What if your kids forget to say thank you? It is helpful to agree on a gentle reminder signal ahead of time. For example, you might lightly touch your child on the ear as a reminder.

Avoid expressing appreciation for something your children have received for them instead of guiding them to saying thank you. When parents show appreciation instead of kids, children do not learn that it is their responsibility to say thank you for things they've received. Children who do not learn to show these basic courtesies are often disrespectful in a number of other ways.

Birthdays and holidays provide many opportunities for children to practice expressing their appreciation. Be sure to give your children the gift of learning to express their gratitude!

About Kathy Slattengren

Kathy Slattengren

Parenting expert Kathy Slattengren, M. Ed., is dedicated to supporting parents in doing their best parenting. She helps families create homes where everyone feels accepted, heard, respected and appreciated.

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