Polite kids are a joy, aren’t they?
Welcomed anywhere. Praised and held up as role models for their less polite peers. “Please” and “thank you” rolling off their well-behaved tongues.
Like learning the alphabet and counting, saying thank you and please are embedded in most children’s vocabulary very early on.
What a shame!
Now, hear me out…
The Politest Little Girl in the World
My parents were sticklers for good manners. I was taught to ask politely for everything and to thank everyone every time.
And I have to admit, being courteous got me to a lot of places.
But I missed out on something fabulous until I was way beyond thirty. I lost years of profound joy, contentment, and peace of mind. I innocently overlooked most of my blessings.
Because being thankful stopped at saying ‘thank you’.
After those words have been said, my thoughts moved on. My heart and emotions never got involved.
Childhood birthdays and Christmas were amazing. I got a lot of lovely gifts from relatives and friends of the family. I ended up getting almost everything I’ve been ogling in shops for months and months.
And I’d dutifully write my thank you letters, always including how much I loved playing with, wearing or reading their gift. After getting my letters in the post box, my job was done and so was my joy.
All my good fortune, all the love and thought poured into making those celebrations so special escaped me.
You see, like so many children, I was taught to say ‘thank you’. By the time I became an adult, it had just become another phrase to trot out.
And I missed out on the true meaning of gratitude.
What It Means To Be Truly Thankful
Now, I finally understand the magnitude of gratitude, its far-reaching effects, and benefits to all of us. And oh boy, am I grateful I found it.
Rather than teaching me to say ‘thank you’, I wish my parents had explained to me what being grateful and thankful truly meant. Now I understand what it really means:
All the great people and good things in my life- what an immense difference they make every day. By running over how lucky I am that they’re a part of my world, I feel safe, loved, and comforted.
All the good fortune I have that others aren’t lucky enough to have. What a very different and difficult story my life could have been without those blessings. Recognizing that makes me feel optimistic and compassionate in equal measure.
All the kindness, advice, and experience I encounter make a huge impact on the way my life pans out. What a difficult time I would be having if I was left on my own. Acknowledging that makes me feel secure and watched over.
All the freedom and opportunities that I have make my life unconditional and interesting. How oppressive and fraught with frustration my days could have turned out otherwise. Valuing that makes me feel carefree and confident that I’ll choose the correct path, even if I have to back up every once in a while.
All the positive abilities, achievements, and qualities of others that bump into my life make it so much easier. What a narrow line I’d be walking without them. Respecting that makes me feel at ease that we’re all in this great life together.
All the great ideas, generosity, and positivity others share with me make my world a better place to live in. Sharing that with others makes me feel I’m playing a valuable part in this great, global community.
All the pleasurable and fun things that bounce into my life make my days light and more enjoyable. What an endless trudge it could be otherwise. Knowing that all of those things are on offer makes me feel happy, satisfied, and recharged enough to keep on going.
My days were very thin before I discovered gratitude. Looking back, it seems like I was simply skating on the surface of what my life could have been. All these amazing, positive feelings that I now treasure would have been missed.
Saying thank you is not the same as feeling it.
Being truly thankful is an amazing experience. It adds a whole extra dimension to every day. It makes the ordinary extraordinary.
What will you share with your children?
None of us need a bunch of rude little monsters roaming through our days. No thanks!
Rather than telling your kids to be thankful, explain to them why they should be thankful.
And instead of telling them to be grateful, explain why.
Better still, show them.
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Author: Laura Tong
Laura Tong is a regular contributor on The Huff Post and other top blogs. Laura’s latest book, The Life-Changing Power of Gratitude is available on Amazon here Laura is Editor at Write To Done, one of the top writing blogs and assistant Editor at Goodlife ZEN, one of the most respected self-improvement blogs.