The Power of Thank You

As parents, many of us understand the value of teaching our children to say thank you.  We nudge them to do so whenever anyone gives them a gift, holds the door open, brings them dinner, buys them clothes, and so on and so forth.  When a child doesn’t say it, you can almost feel the temperature in the room drop as everyone waits on tip toes, wondering what’s going to happen next… Will the child actually say thank you?  Will the parent, looking embarrassed, say to the child with that edge in their voice, “What do you say?”

There’s debate as to whether or not forcing apologies gets us the polite children we so want, but regardless no one can debate the value of saying “thank you” and the importance it holds in a society in which we try to help one another.  The problem is that in all the times we try to instil this in our children, we are often forgetting a critical piece of the puzzle: Saying thank you to them.

Sure, we thank our children when they paint us a beautiful picture or make us a unique art piece at school or give us a special homemade birthday card.  Those are the “special” things that warrant the “thank you”.  When our children are younger, we see the power of this thank you as one excited look on their face from a drawing will lead to ten more drawings in the next ten minutes, with the same expectation (and enjoyment of) the thank you’s they receive in return.  However, just as we try to teach our children to say thank you not just on these special occasions, but also for the more mundane activities, we too need to make sure we offer up our thanks for what they do.

Take, for example, the usual task of getting kids to clean up their toys/room/whatever.  Usually it starts with a request, then another, then a bit of a battle, until finally it’s done, but with the child resentful for it and the parent just thinking (and sometimes saying) “Finally!” and leaving it at that.  Now imagine if instead of this, once it was done, there was an honest-to-goodness “Thank you” from the parent with an explanation as to why it was important (if that wasn’t addressed earlier).

I know it doesn’t always seem like much, but as parents we often find ourselves doing a lot of things we don’t enjoy – cleaning, laundry, paying bills, grocery shopping, to name a few – and many of us feel underappreciated because we do these things to little fanfare.  They need to get done, so we do them.  But if you’re lucky and, at least some of the time, receive some honest thanks for your work, it makes that chore seem just a little less burdensome.  The same applies to our children.  When we earnestly thank them, we are giving them something for their efforts and letting them know we appreciate it.  Just as when they give us something special, when they contribute to the household by doing a chore or helping with child care or cooking or picking up something from the store, we need to remember how important it is to thank them.

Thanking them not only lets them know they’re appreciated and helps ensure they continue to want to help us in the future, but also serves to remind us of what we have.  Giving thanks for our children and what they do is something we should do daily.  It can be hard when we feel like we’re constantly at odds with our kids over homework, chores, getting to bed, and so on.  However, time flies and your relationships with your children will face challenges as all relationships do; having had years of your children feeling your appreciation of them and what they do is a huge factor in ensuring you have a healthy and good relationship with your kids through thick and thin.  Isn’t that what we all want?

The power of thank you means that our children don’t feel underappreciated for what they do to help us in our daily lives.  It also makes them more likely to help us out in the future.  On top of that, it helps us be cognizant of our own appreciation of our children, strengthening our relationship with them for years to come.  Not bad for a couple of words, eh?

Image via Flickr/Orin Zebest

By Tracy Cassels

April 20, 2015