In fact, the holidays are a great time for parents to teach their kids lifelong values - starting with thank you notes.
Parenting expert Mary O'Donohue (www.maryodonohue.com), author of "When You Say 'Thank You,' Mean It ... And 11 Other Lessons for Instilling Lifelong Values in Your Children," came into our ABC7 studio to provide Dos and Don'ts on how to get your kids to express heartfelt gratitude for those holiday games and toys.
- DON'T withhold the toy until your child writes a 'thank you' note first.
- DO let your child have fun playing with the gift before expressing gratitude.
Remember that the giver's intention was that your child would enjoy the gift, so let them do so. The gift was not meant to be something held hostage until a 'thank you' note was paid as ransom. When a child has played with a toy and really enjoyed it, that exuberance will come through when formal thanks are expressed.
- DON'T force your kids to write traditional 'thank you' notes.
- DO insist they express their gratitude in a sincere way that is personal to them
This is an opportunity for kids to take initiative and be creative! (Example: Mary's then-11-year-old son, when left to his own devices, took 3 days to create a construction paper scale model of the reversible set from the play Mary Poppins as a 'thank you' to her boss, who had invited them to the theatre. It even had moving parts, with a door that opened to reveal a note of heartfelt thanks.) Kids will surprise you!
- DON'T just say "It's the thought that counts" when kids don't like a gift
- DO help kids see the meaning behind every gift they receive.
Because there's more to a gift than meets the eye. Let's say your kids received holiday reindeer cardigans from grandma. Help them "rewind" the process, so they see that before grandma gift-wrapped the sweaters, she knitted them by hand over the course of several weeks. Before that, she carefully chose the colors of yarn, and paid for it herself. And, even before that, she thought of her grandkids and figured out a way to express how much she loves them. Kids can be grateful for that generous and loving process even if they're not crazy about reindeer sweaters!
- DON'T just encourage kids to be grateful for holiday and birthday gifts.
- DO remind your kids to express gratitude throughout the year for those intangible gifts they receive every day.
Because these gifts of friendship, compassion, laughter, comfort, and joy given to them by the people in their lives, often go unnoticed and unappreciated. These are the gifts that matter most.