Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (July 26, 2018)
Two weeks ago, I had one of the happiest days of my life. My son was eating crackers at my learning centre and as two year olds do, he left crumbs everywhere. We had to clean up and I used the vacuum cleaner to clean the floor as it was too big for him to hold. Just as I turned it off, he looks up at me and says ‘thank you mummy’. I know it doesn’t sound like much but I melted right there and then. It was the first time he had said an unsolicited thank you (bear in mind, he had only recently learnt how to say ‘thank you’!) and addressed the person. My response was immediate “you’re welcome sweetheart and thank you for having such good manners in saying thank you”. I spent the rest of the day beaming.
I often do a heart check and ask myself what makes me happiest or proudest as a parent. As a toddler now, he’s soaking things up and learning new things every day. And it’s easy to be proud of him for finally learning the colours or remembering the names of instruments I’ve taught him. Or being able to walk on a balance beam on his own or being able to know many words. But for me, nothing makes me happier as when he shows gratitude to others, not just me but to everyone around him.
I recently overheard him saying to his nanny “thank you Yaya (how he calls his nanny) cooking me” upon receiving his meal which I’m pretty sure meant “thank you for cooking for me” as opposed to cooking him. Or when he got off the Uber and said to the driver “thank you driving me”. It’s these unsolicited responses of gratitude that make me happiest as a parent.
And I as I celebrate the joy of ‘reaping gratitude’ now, I think about how best to first ‘sow gratitude’.
1. Show gratitude to your child
We often expect our children to show gratitude to us because of all that we do for them but do we also show them gratitude? By doing so, I think it helps them understand what gratitude is and if they’ve received it before, it easier to give it. So saying things like “thank you for waiting so quietly for mummy to finish speaking to my friend. I really appreciate it when you’re patient.” Or asking them to do a task or chore and then saying “thank you for helping me get my cup of water. You’re so helpful”. We’re modelling gratitude to them.
2. They’re watching us
Show them what gratitude looks like by expressing it to others because they’re watching us. Say ‘thank you’ to friends, doormen and waiters alike and have your child see how you show gratitude to others.
3. Give them them the words
Before my son could string words together to form sentences, I had him repeat after me ‘thank you. for. the present.” so he would know how to express his gratitude. And not just to say “thank you” but to add what you’re thankful for.
4. Give opportunities to practice
As the saying goes, ‘watch your actions, for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character’. If we can create positive habits of saying thank you, we can cultivate the character of gratitude. For example, get your child to write thank you cards or record videos saying thank you to people. Or just in a day, say thank you to everyone you meet for helping you in some way.
By sowing in gratitude, we will surely reap it in due time. And gratitude is the best seed to sow!
最近，我又無意中聽到他對保姆姨姨說「Thank you Yaya cooking me（Yaya是他對保姆姨姨的稱呼）」，我相信他的意思是：「謝謝你為我做飯。」有時又會對司機說：「謝謝你開車送我。」聽到孩子這一句句自發的謝謝，就是作為父母最樂見的情景。