How often have we thought or uttered, usually in frustration, “A little thanks would be appreciated.” To make the multi-family situation work, abundant thank-you’s are required.
The mundane rituals which keep our lives running smoothly are usually the most overlooked. The thank you is a spoken appreciation for the little things. “Thank you, Mowgli, for the great hug!” “Thank you, ED, for the great dinner.” “Thank you, Blue Boy, for taking my clothes out of the dryer.” “Thank you for moving your dirty underwear off the stairs.”
Lest you imagine all of us spewing forth thank you’s incessantly, many of them are prodded. After treating Mowgli to a smoothie, I may have to model my own thanks, “Thank you, Grandma,” before he remembers to offer it. My job as the adult is to train him to be alert for those moments of gratitude that are taken for granted. Encouraging the boys to express thanks to us, hopefully, conditions them to thank others.
How far a little thanks can go. When YD chose her junior high band teacher to feature in high school essay, I sent a copy to the said teacher. She replied that she was moved by the well-deserved and rarely offered praise. Teaching children to verbally thank their teachers, coaches, lunch-room attendants, bus drivers, and countless others opens their eyes to the abundance of life and, I think, helps them to trust others.
How to teach real gratitude and not sycophantism which is transparent and meaningless? Personally, I think the answer is living a life of gratitude, thanking those around and closest to myself as well as commenting on the deeds of kindness that I observe. Any other ideas?