Education

Did You Remember To Say Thank You

Since becoming a parent, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been quick to prompt with the words “Did you say thank you?” whenever my son has received a gift or kindness. And I’ve spent many hours helping him with timely, personalised thank you notes too. My observation is that most parents do focus on this small, but essential courtesy when their children are small. I also note that there is a high ‘drop off rate’ when children reach junior school. It’s rather like the ‘my child only eats organic food’ mantra I see repeated by so many pre-school mothers, who then bend under pressure and revert to chicken nuggets, turkey dinosaurs and baked beans when their cherub is old enough to have an opinion and believes all green food is evil.
Thank you notes seems to suffer the same fate – it appears that some parents file them conveniently into the ‘too hard’ box and rely on verbal, email or Facebook thanks alone. I understand – it can be a thankless task to persuade a reluctant 8 year old to put pen to paper and write to Grandma! So,are handwritten thank you notes doomed to fall into decline? And does it really matter if our young ones are at least trained to express their gratitude when they receive something?
But, are we teaching them to be grateful or simply to pay lip service through writing (or emailing) a note? Well, gratitude is not a simple thing to teach in our materialistic society where the value and the pleasure derived from individual items seems to be so fleeting. As a child I felt very blessed with my trusty teddy bear, a couple of dolls and a shelf of well-thumbed paperbacks. Each of those items was highly cherished and I knew that the only time I might receive gifts was my birthday and at Christmas time. it was all very logical and I felt secure in this knowledge. I was also very grateful for the gifts I did receive and writing thank you notes was firmly imprinted on my childhood (and since).
Fast forward thirty five years, and my son is mixing with children who appear to receive small (and not-so-small) gifts all the time, from ‘pester power’ in the supermarket to fully stuffed party bags, holiday gifts, gifts for passing exams, for being well behaved… In short many children today are thoroughly showered with gifts all year round. But, are they grateful and appreciative when their good fortune seems to be a given fact of life? Have we all forgotten the true benefits of gratitude – even for the smallest things? As Spring breathes new life into our countryside, the trees are bursting into bloom and the woodlands and hedgerows are carpeted with daffodils, I am so grateful for nature’s bounty and I am grateful too that my son marvels in this rich tapestry as freely as I do. Small blessings, but I give thanks for them all the same.

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