A British expat mom on teaching kids manners

Written by: Fiona Royer

How to teach your child manners and gratitude.

Photo credit: scribbletaylor/Flickr

With my British upbringing, I was surrounded by traditional etiquette. My sister and I were taught to listen without interrupting, learned how to eat with a cake fork, and always wrote formal thank-you notes.

In today’s busy, digital work it’s easy to forgo the handwritten approach and even to forget to show appreciation altogether. Now a mother myself, I want to be sure to teach my daughters, aged 2½ and 1 year, the value of being thankful. Like many parents, we’re anxious that abundance doesn’t manifest itself into entitlement, but are instead hoping to foster feelings of gratitude.

Writing thank-you notes. We planted the seeds of gratitude early on, writing thank you notes on our first baby’s behalf. Once she began to hold a crayon by herself I seized upon the opportunity to get her “signature” on my handwritten notes. Now that she’s a fully fledged toddler she’s taken ownership of these little cards. She will spend a long time focusing on “writing” her name and drawing the latest favored doodle. I still add the language, but I also talk to her about the fact that we’re saying thank you for something.

Saying thank you. Of course creating a culture of thanks does not only mean writing note cards. Saying the words is also incredibly important. “Tank-coo” became a well-used phrase early on in our eldest daughter’s world as we offered her many opportunities to “use her nice manners” — to babysitters for fun activities and play, to grocery store staff for packing our bags, and to waiters for bringing us food. 

Performing acts of kindness can also contribute towards creating a culture of thanks. It’s easy to purchase a gift and just hand it over, but we like to include our girls in this whole process. Our oldest has helped to make shortbread for her teachers at Valentine’s Day, chosen donuts to take on play dates, selected flowers for family friends, and toted gift bags around the holidays.

Making donations. Above all, creating a culture of thanks means learning to be thankful for what you have and remembering those that are less fortunate. Although this concept is an alien one at the moment, I do believe that now is the time to start instilling a thankful way of life. When school asks for donations to their book drive or toys around the holidays, our daughter is used to adding her chosen item to the pile with no protest.

Being thankful for each day. As a working mom with two little ones, it’s easy to subscribe to the belief that there just isn’t enough time — there isn’t. However, I truly believe that there’s always time to say thank you; you just need to pause and reflect. Bedtime is a good time to recap the day with your family, to remind yourself — and teach your children — just how lucky you all are.

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Posted on June 17, 2016 at 1:13 PM