4 ways to teach your child to say ‘Thank You’

One of the proudest moments for me as a parent happened at a playdate that I took my 2-year-old son Ram to. While exploring his friend’s toys, he asked for some blocks that were promptly handed over by my friend to him, and he responded with a quick  ‘thank you babu’. I was stunned, because we never consciously tried to have him say this to anybody at home. 

The guiding principle at home while dealing with Ram is always ‘Let him be’ and ‘Let him explore’. So the cognitive reflex that i just witnessed was a pleasant surprise. However, this leads to a deeper understanding that learning is not limited to what we teach our children, but a constant phenomena of observation, reflection, experimentation and imbibing for them. What I do know and would love to share with you are four things we do at home with Ram.

Expressing gratitude instead of demanding it

We thank Ram for every little help that he extends, whether it’s his coming to us when we call him or his handing over the clip for mama to wear, or his helping us search for a water bottle or a knick-knack. ‘Thank You Ram’ and ‘Thank You Babu’ for small little things is something that all of us practise. It is my firm belief that gratitude is one of the most positive ways of building self confidence in our little ones. Just by expressing our gratitude we end up making them feel like contributing members of the family. The ability to express for our toddlers is very limited but there is multiple research which says that their understanding of surrounding is far more developed than what they can express. 

Setting up examples 

Toddlers are great mimics! What they see and hear is fast registered in their minds much like a dry sponge soaking up water. One cannot expect our children to practise what we preach if we cannot do the same. Three things are a norm at home when we adults deal with each other: Saying ‘Thank You’, ‘Please’ and ‘Sorry’ if we hurt someone. Demonstration of values and manners by adults is perhaps one of the many ways our children learn about kindness towards each other.

No powerplay 

It’s a joy to watch him establish his independence and express it. At any point of time if there is a sticky situation, where we want him to do something, there is always a “please” prefixed to our statements and in case he is not in a mood to comply. We just wait. Simply put, there is no question of powerplay in a relationship which should be based on mutual trust, love and respect. It makes sense too because gratitude is difficult to feel when you are in a powerless state. It’s not just true for adults, for our little ones too!

Avoiding social pressure to conform

While I am quite happy to hear him say ‘thank you’, we are quite aware of the fact that this may not happen everytime there is an act of kindness or consideration that Ram might experience. And it’s ok for him to just ‘be’. One philosophy we do abide by at home is that we do not engineer his learning. It is ok for him to pick up things at his pace. It is ok for him to forget, to trip, to throw a tantrum. He needs to act his age now otherwise it will last much longer into adulthood.

Growing up as a parent is fun and I hope my story in a small way added meaning to your own journey.

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