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Fostering Spontaneous Gratitude is More Valuable Than Teaching “Please” and “Thank You”

Being Thanked by my Kid Feels Wonderful

Today I took my daughter to Niagara Falls for lunch.
We went to Boston Pizza, then had a frozen yogurt.
Later on we went to the Value Village where she saw
a pair of pyjamas that she liked and asked if I would buy them for her.
I told her “Of course. It would be my joy to do so.”

For each of these things,
The pizza
The yogurt
and the pyjamas
She thanked me.

Thanks for the pizza dad
Thanks for the yogurt dude
Thanks for the pyjamas, I really love them.

These moments of spontaneous gratitude filled my heart with joy.
I don’t expect her to say thank you.
I don’t do these things for her to get a thank you.
And it feels wonderful to receive her joyful expression.

Learning Gratitude Without Force

I find it quite amazing when she shows gratitude.
Not because it’s a rare occurrence.
It happens all the time.

The reason I am amazed is because
I never made her say “please” and “thank you” as a child.

I also have made it a principle to say yes to her for everything.
If she asks for something and I can afford it I always get it for her.

Why Would She Say Thank You?

So one has to wonder why a young person
who gets everything they want,
never hears no,
and was never made to say “please” and “thank you”…
Why does this person express gratitude
effortlessly, naturally and consistently?

According to traditional “wisdom” she should be
selfish, greedy, materialistic and entitled.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s the Feeling, Not the Act

The fact is, as her friend and guide
I have always focused on what is underneath the surface.
She didn’t learn to SAY “please” and “thank you”
She grew up FEELING “please” and “thank you”

Trying to make her say “please” and “thank you” only affects the surface.
It does not actually teach the nature of
gratitude, appreciation or generosity.
These things are feelings.
They come from the heart and are expressed outwardly.

Forced Behaviour Doesn’t Teach Feeling

Forcing kids to say “please” and “thank you” is in fact
ineffective in teaching gratitude.
I believe it actually teaches the opposite.

Because when kids are forced to behave in particular way
there is always a resentment that accompanies it.
At the very least there is a lack of conscious thought present in those moments.
When kids have to obey the external command
They are not listening to their internal environment.
This is necessarily so.

They may be hearing their internal message,
but they are being forced to ignore it
in favour of the external message of
the adult in power.

A Three Year Old Demonstrates Pure Gratitude

This afternoon in the Value Village there was a 3 year old child in a buggy.
He dropped a little toy he was playing with.
I was nearby so I immediately picked it up
and handed it to him with a big smile on my face.
He was so happy that I rescued his toy he was beaming with joy.

The look of gratitude in his eyes filled me with joy myself.
We had a moment of mutual upliftment.

No Need For Words

There was no need for words to express the
“please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome”.

His gratitude was natural and flowed from the core of his being.
If his mother had turned around at that moment and said
“Say thank you to the nice man.”
the moment of pure giving and receiving,
of pure joy,
of beautiful, mutual gratitude
would have been lost.

He Was My Teacher

In that moment he was teaching me about gratitude.
I do think that we often have our roles reversed in our minds.
We think our job is to teach our kids manners
So we tell them how to behave.

When really they are there to teach us.
His expression was so sincere and pure
That it went straight to my heart.

I hope I can embody some of the gratitude spirit
This young human demonstrated to me!

Recognize And Foster The Beauty They Have Within

The key is not to make a child say “please” and “thank you”,
but to recognize they already have
a deep sense of gratitude naturally within them
and to foster it.

If we can enhance and inspire
what they have already within
then we are teaching this very important value
from the inside out.

When we do this it is enduring, natural
and much deeper than learning the words by rote.

Effective Teaching Requires We Change More Than They Do!

Letting go of our attachment to behaviour
and always looking beneath the surface
is a hard habit to break.

It literally is a daily effort
a moment by moment struggle
a battle of self-awareness
and a deep commitment to being an inner guide
rather than an external control.

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