From the time Kyle first learned how to talk, we taught him to say thank you. We call them the “polite words” on his list. Those two words are very, very important. Every time Kyle receives something, we make sure he says thank you. We remind him to say thank you to everyone, even if it’s just getting a glass of water from his yaya. I would prompt him, “What will you say? You’re supposed to say thank you.” It’s about helping kids build the habit of appreciating the small things, so they they can appreciate the big things.
Now that he’s older, I’ve taught Kyle how to pray, and we will include thankfulness in his prayers before he sleeps. I would ask him what made him happy during the day, and I would encourage him to say thank you for those things. I would ask, “What do you want to say thank you for today?” Kyle would say, “Thank you for letting me watch Peppa Pig,” or “Thank you for mommy go home early.” Those moments are also reminders to me that the small things matter to him. It’s also a good way for me to learn what made his day special. I do this because I want to make it a routine, a habit for him to think about the things that he should be thankful for. It allows him to think about the everyday things that make his life better. Sometimes, when he can’t think of anything to be thankful for, I would share mine and I would say, “Thank you for the love of Daddy and Kyle, and for Kyle for being so good to mommy” This way, he will also realize it’s not just about material things or the things that we enjoy doing that we should be thankful for. This also helps him appreciate our love for him, and he will know that we appreciate him as our kid. I’m building compassion in Kyle as he grows. I don’t want him to take anything for granted.
For instance, when I go away, I would usually have a gift for Kyle when I come back. Because I do it so often, it almost became a normal thing for him – an expectation. It was no longer special. So I would explain to Kyle that I won’t always have a gift for him, and that toys are expensive and I will need to work to earn money to get him toys. I let Kyle understand that it’s not as simple as him wanting something and then getting it. I think a lot of parents can relate to this. It’s never easy, and guilt is our enemy here. But we shouldn’t feel guilty about not giving our kids everything they want. There is a fine balance to keep.
Whenever Kyle gets gifts from other people, I would also remind him that he needs to be thankful. He has aunts and uncles and friends that would give him presents because they love him. It’s actually really cute when this thought sinks in, because he would say “So many people love Kyle.” And that’s what makes him feel blessed, because he feels loved. It’s really important that he understands how blessed he is to be loved by many people.
In building any habit, consistency is important. I make it a point to remind Kyle to be thankful everyday, so that it will become automatic or second nature to him. I want Kyle to grow up to be a person who appreciates what he has, no matter the circumstance. Cultivating thankfulness is my way of making sure he learns to appreciate the blessings he’s received from and through the people around him. It reminds him of just how much he is loved.