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.
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!
撒播感恩種子兩星期前，我經歷了人生其中一刻最快樂的時光。囝囝到我的學習中心「探班」，正如很多兩歲的孩子一樣，他一邊吃餅乾，餅屑便一直四散。我們隨即拿起吸塵機把地方清潔一下，就在關掉吸塵機的一刻，他抬頭看著我說：「媽媽，謝謝你！」我知道這聽起平常不過，但我的心當下真的融化了。這是他第一次自發、有對象地向別人道謝（別忘了，他最近才剛學會說「謝謝！」）。我的回應也來得非常直接：「寶寶，謝謝你！謝謝你有這麼有禮地說『謝謝』。」囝囝這句謝謝，讓我整天笑容滿面、心花怒放。作為媽媽，我常常反思孩子有什麼能令我特別開心或驕傲。在這階段，囝囝是個蹣跚學步的幼兒，他每天都在努力學習新事物，他令我引以為傲的時刻著實不少，例如學習到一些新的詞彙、學懂一種顏色或樂器、能夠獨自在平衡木上行走等。但對我來說，當他能夠向身邊每個人表達感激之情，才是讓我最最最快樂的！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。當我很高興地「收穫感恩」時，也想跟大家分享怎樣為孩子「撒播感恩種子」：1. 對孩子表達感激之情我們經常期望孩子因為我們為他所做的事情而向表示感謝，但我們是否也曾向他們表達感激之情？我認為這個習慣有助孩子明白什麼是感恩，如果我們曾向他們道謝，他們也就更容易理解這行為。事實上，家長要找機會答謝孩子真的不難，例如：「謝謝你剛才安靜等待，讓媽媽能跟朋友好好談天。」或是讓他們幫忙完成一些小任務或簡單的家務後，跟他說：「謝謝你為我拿這杯水，你真是一個小幫手呢！」這樣為孩子樹立榜樣，他們便能在潛移默化地學懂感恩的心。2. 孩子在看著你除了對孩子，我們也要習慣向別人表達感謝，因為身教才是最重要。無論是對朋友、保安員或服務員都好，記得在適當的時候向他們說聲「謝謝」，讓孩子學習你如何表達對他人的感激之情。3. 豐富孩子的詞彙在囝囝學習如何將單詞串連成句子時，我常會重複教他：「謝謝你，送給我，的禮物。」我希望他不單學懂說謝謝，還要明白謝謝什麼、為什麼要謝謝。4. 給予孩子練習的機會我很記得一句話：「注意你的行為，因為它們將會成為你的習慣；注意你的習慣，因為它們塑造出你的性格。」我相信如果我們能夠培養孩子向別人道謝的習慣，自然而然也能為他們養成感恩的品格。舉例說，你可讓孩子寫感謝卡或錄製視頻，向別人道謝。又或是找一天，向遇見的每個人都說謝謝，謝謝他們在某種形式上幫助你們。通過撒播感恩種子，我們一定能在適當的時候得到收成。我更相信感恩是一夥最佳的種子呢！