Gratitude. Ooh baby, this is probably the feeling we want our children to express more than any other.
Have you heard of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation? When we prompt our kids to say thank you we are using extrinsic motivation. They say thank you because they are trying to please us, or stay out of trouble. When they come to gratitude on their own and say thank you without prompting, they are using intrinsic motivation. They are saying it because they feel it and because saying so feels good to them.
Science tells us that for long term behavior repetition, intrinsic beats extrinsic HANDS DOWN. In fact, the use of extrinsic motivation actually makes it less likely that a child will repeat the behavior over time!
So what to do?
1. Model gratitude. Say thank you every chance you get.
2. Stop forcing and prompting thank yous.
3. Stop praising the use of thank yous. (Rewards are extrinsic motivators!)
4. Trust. Your child is actually grateful and if given a chance will demonstrate that in their own way, on their own schedule.
Image credit: Feeleez ABCs