“Thank you”, “bye”, and “hi” probably are the first group of social words all parents teach their toddlers. Greetings and manners are very important in human society, in turn, it is important to teach our children not only to pronounce these correctly but also to use these phrases with sincerity. Today, a week before Thanksgiving, I would like to write about how to teach children to say “thank you” with heart.
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Back in 2007 when I was serving a full-time mission for the LDS Church at the Washington D.C. LDS Temple Visiting Center, I learned to say “Thank You” in several languages. Washington D.C. is the Capital of the U.S., people from all over the world visit for business and leisure. I thought Hong Kong had a lot of tourists, but it didn’t even compare to the amount in D.C.
Thinking back, I knew how to say thank you 15 different ways, but I didn’t really say it sincerely, If I could go back to 2007, I would change the way I greeted everyone.
The True Meaning of Thank You
- Feeling Grateful
- Showing Gratitude
- Being Humble
- Being Sincere
- Expressing Love
My Own Experiences
It is typical for a traditional Chinese Father to never say “Thank you,” or “Sorry” or “I love you” to their kids. My father was one of them. I do have a loving father, but growing up he never said these things, it seemed all the things I did for him was owed to him. As I became an adult, he would say it occasionally, but still, he would never look into my eyes and say it sincerely. For me it was quite the opposite, when I was a little girl, being polite and respectful was vital. I was taught to bow and look into people’s eyes when saying “Thank You” or “I’m sorry.”
Now as the mother of three young children, it is interesting to see how they learn and understand these intangible feelings, things like love, guilt, and want. After I taught my 19-month-old son a couple of times, he says “Thank You” right after receiving help. It’s amazing how fast he understood the concept. However, after 6 more months, these cute little toddlers who will do anything for you, are going to become a questioning-machine, do what they want and the opposite of what they are asked. So, how can we encourage them meaningfully say “Thank You” on a daily basis?
Ways to Encourage Kids to Say Thank You
- Be their Example: Be their parent and not their friend. Parenting is key to children’s success. Children learn and copy almost everything from their parents. Sometimes, it is hard to say “Thank You” to others, especially when angry. But every time I try to put down my pride and say it, things always turn out better. When I take my kids outside, there are always people screaming at their kids, being mean to others, and swearing. I think it is vital for us, as parents and educators to show them how to be polite, and have proper social interactions with others. They will see how much happier being polite and courteous to others makes others and yourself.
- Putt up Posters or Flashcards: I wish I had a more wall space so that I could hang different posters and decorations in our homeschooling area. By putting up posters on the wall, we can have a daily reminder to make good decisions.
- Encourage the Whole Family: Right now I’m talking about learning to say “Thank You” (謝謝) in Chinese or even other languages. It’s more fun to do things together, especially for little ones. If Chinese is not your native language, but your kids are learning it, try to encourage the whole family to say Thank You in Chinese rather than in your native language. It may be a bit awkward in the beginning, but after everyone adjusts, you will love it and start to understand the true meaning of it.
- Don’t Punish when thank you isn’t Said: Saying Thank You, is showing love to others, it should not be forced. If your children don’t want to express gratitude by saying Thank You don’t force them. First, we should calm ourselves down and let go of any anger. Then, try to find an appropriate time and setting to listen to your child’s feeling and why they didn’t say “thank you”. Maybe there was something bothering the child. Then explain to the child the reasons and how can we be nice to others, even when we don’t want to or are not in the mood.
This is one of my family’s favorite video which talks about giving thanks. I hope this video will help you think of who you can say “Thank You” to, and what actions you can take to show your love for them.
In the Spirit of Thanksgiving (Mormon Channel)
FREE Thanksgiving Coloring Pages
I know we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in China, but I it is a perfect time to teach our children how to be grateful for what they have. So I made a couple of coloring pages in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and English as resources to teach gratitude.
Do you have any other methods of encouraging your kids to say Thank You with Heart?
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in your home?
Have a great Thanksgiving!
You Might Be Interested
- How to say Thank You in 50 Languages (World of Wanderlust)
- The word “ThanK You” means more than just an appreciation of people’s kindness (HubPages)
- 5 Ways to Raise a Grateful Child (Parenting)
- How to say thank you in Chinese: 4 Ways to Show Your Gratitude (Ninchanese)