My child sometimes says please and thank you. If he really wants something, he yells, “Peeeaaaassss.” I call that progress. I try to always say please and thank you if we are out to eat or checking out a book from the library. I’m modeling the behavior for him.
But how often do I thank him? I’m talking about a real “Thank you,” not an exasperated one that comes after he’s finally done something I’ve asked him to do 20 times.
How often do I recognize the really hard situations he’s put in, and thank him for his cooperation? For instance, I take him on long, complicated trips (two cars and two planes) at least three times a year. By the time we make it where we’re going, I’m too tired to remember how tired he is. I’m way too tired to remember to thank him.
Our living room is basically just a toy chest that exploded. My son knows the names of every car. He kisses his cars and tucks them in for nap time. Often, when he wakes up I ask him to leave his toys behind and go to the grocery store. What a trade? Why would anyone do this? It probably makes no sense to him. But he gets in the car, usually endures the long ride in a cart, and gets back in the car.
I wake him up at 6:50 in the morning so I can get him to daycare (I work at 8:00 a.m.). He isn’t happy, but he wakes up on the way and tells me about the trees and the school buses we pass.
On Sundays, he usually doesn’t want to go anywhere at 9:00 a.m. But he takes my hand and we walk into church together.
When children are little, they can’t make sense of the things they have to do and the places they have to go. They have to trust the adults in their lives.
If we really want to model gratefulness I think we have to start by thanking them.
“Thank you for being so patient in the car,” is just another way of saying, “I see you. You are an important member of this family. You don’t call the shots, but you do matter so, so much to me.”