The Power of Thank You

by Jonathan Weedman, May 21, 2012

students posing in thank you letters

Have you ever heard the phrase "you catch more flies with honey?" Besides being a pearl of wisdom, this old adage speaks to human nature. It tells us that we get more of what we want by being kind and sweet. What if that honey wasn’t just about being kind and sweet? What if that honey was being grateful and what we wanted to gain was a greater sense of happiness?

Teaching children to be grateful for the things they have can actually make them happier. When children appreciate and are thankful for what is given to them they feel content, whole, fulfilled. These feelings then lead to a greater sense of well-being and happiness. On the other hand, when children are not grateful and instead seek to have more, they often are left with a sense of longing and emptiness. They create a pattern of never feeling satiated and that there is never enough to help them feel better.

Therefore, teaching children a sense of gratitude is paramount to happiness and success. Does it go beyond teaching them to say thank you? According to the answer is yes. gives us some great tips for teaching gratitude:

  • Work gratitude into your daily conversation. "We're so lucky to have a good cat like Sam!" "Aren't the colors in the sunset amazing?" Set up a routine talking as a family for what you are thankful for. This normalizes the process of gratitude and shifts the conversation from what is wrong or what you don’t have to being thankful for all you do have.
  • Have kids help. Giving children chores around the house that are suitable for their developmental level is extremely helpful for them to learn gratitude. Children can be appreciative when they realize what it takes to run a household. Simple everyday things can do the trick. Such chores as feeding the dog, transferring the clothes from the washer to the dryer, pulling weeds, or putting your plate in the dishwasher can go far in teaching this lesson.
  • Find a goodwill project. This doesn’t have to be taking on a big project. It can be taking clothes to Goodwill, taking canned food to the food bank, or helping a neighbor with their yard work. Its important to talk about why you are doing it and why you are thankful for what you have.
  • Encourage generosity. Giving to others is powerful. Encourage sharing what you have with others. If you do not have much, encourage sharing your time, energy, and creativity. Again, speak directly to what you are doing and why.
  • Insist on thank-you notes. For little ones, this can be you writing the note and them drawing a picture or signing their name. For older kids, carve out time for them to do this and make it personal. They should address it to the person and specifically thank them for the item they received. Teaching children to write thank-you notes of gifts can be a powerful lesson.
  • Practice saying no. Children who never hear the word “no,” never learn to have self-discipline. If children are granted all their heart desires they will have a hard time appreciating what they have as they learn to expect the next toy, cookie, or video game.
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