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Toddler holding Teddybear

These days, I rarely receive thank you notes. The writing of them seems to have become a lost art. Writing thank you notes may be a diminishing tradition, but it's one that I insist my son carry on.

At three years old, he's much too small of course, to pen his own thoughts of gratitude. Instead, I help him scrawl the letters of his name at the bottom of a card. The point is not just painstakingly handwritten signatures at the end of a note thanking grandmom for socks. I want my son to learn gratitude as a way of thinking.

Part of the learning process on my end has been to be less direct in my commands. Rather than leap on him and immediately demand, "Say thank you!" or even, "Now what do you say?" instead, I try to coax him in gentler ways." "That was very thoughtful, wasn't it?" and "Wow, what a nice thing to do for you!" are little prods that help him remember the two word phrase all on his own. Plus, I hope it helps him to piece together when and why we say "thank you."

There are lots of daily opportunities to learn thankfulness. When we're out and about, I encourage him to thank teachers and group leaders when we leave an activity, to say, "thank you," to friends who kindly hold the door, or to cashiers and shop workers. At home, I focus less on telling him how to respond, and more on setting an example. Developing my own habit of gratitude for things otherwise taken for granted has been easier than I expected, and beneficial for us both. By observing when I say "thank you," he learns when to say it as well.

We're already making progress. He knows the words to say, and he's learning when and how to say them. He's eager to shout, "thank you!" when a car stops to let us cross the street, or when someone passes him an extra helping at the dinner table. Time will tell if his learned responses become sincere expressions of thanks.

How do you teach your children to show gratitude?

About Liz Moorhead
Liz Moorhead is a high school teacher turned work-from-home mom. An illustrator and writer, she blogs for a top wedding site and shares her own personal experiences on her blog Happy Sighs in between walks to the park with her toddler son - all just outside of Philadelphia.

Liz Moorhead

Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.