Parenting is a tough job. Sure, there are the snuggles and smiles and awkward hugs. But a lot of it is a slog. Even with two older ones home for the summer, I'm reminded how much it is just to have more bodies in the house. More hair in the sink. Extra pots to wash. And glasses and glasses and glasses on what seems to be every flat surface.
I do the obvious: assign chores, set rules about loading dishwashers, wiping down bathroom mirrors, and cleaning up after themselves. But there are still lots of times when having the kids home makes more work. It takes more time to make dinner for four than for two. The trash fills up faster. Clutter adds up. Even vacuuming takes longer.
That's Where "Thank You" Becomes Important.
Feeling unappreciated gnaws at the soul. When you go out shopping, cook up a meal, and put it on the table, you expect someone inhaling it like they've never eaten before to acknowledge that effort.
Those clothes that magically show up clean and folded in their drawers? It would be nice if someone noticed that they didn't just grow there.
The dry towels neatly hanging on the racks in the bathroom? Next to the useful boxes of tissues and the freshly replenished toilet paper? It wasn't elves.
All of the tasks of running a house take thought effort and time someone (you) almost definitely would rather have spent doing something other than doing it.
One of the reasons that many adults find time at work more rewarding than time at home is exactly that: at work their thoughtful effort is acknowledged. At least in the form of a paycheck. Often with thanks and praise.
That's where training comes in.
"What's The Magic Word?"
Everyone has had that phrase dangled in front of them. When a child makes a direct request without saying "please," we stop and feel annoyed. That's especially true when they sound demanding or, worse still, entitled. We instinctively know that we're resentful at being commanded to do something. And as parents, who are in a position of authority, we expect a request to be a request. "Please" acknowledges that we can reasonably refuse.
That's important psychologically. We have autonomy. Our relationship - parent and child—is acknowledged. It's polite.
When we see a child demanding things of a parent without that "please," something feels wrong. Many people, seeing that, will feel free to prompt the child for the "please." And all parents would feel comfortable raising an eyebrow or verbally prompting until they get one.
Thank You Is Just As Important
We tend to be less immediate in our demand for thanks, but it's just as important. A thank you acknowledges the work and effort that was done. Effort—caregiving—is a gift, and one we expect to be acknowledged.
Not saying 'thank you' shows a lack of appreciation. This is a grating characteristic in a co-worker or a boss. It's worse when the person is someone you're supposed to have authority over.
Resentment Poisons Relationships.
That's why it's worth prompting your kid for a thank you. You can't ask someone to feel grateful. But you can prompt them to acknowledge a gift.
Most of the time kids do appreciate little things—handing them a bowl of cereal, driving them to the movies, handing them a stack of clean clothes. But they're paying attention to other things. They're distracted by their video game or arguing with their sister or sulking about the friend who didn't ask them over to play.
Calling attention to the fact that someone just did something for them does four things: all of which are good for them.
It Goes Both Ways
How to get kids to say thanks? Four simple steps:
Say "you're welcome'. "No problem" minimizes their endebtedness (fine). But "you're welcome" means you're happy to have done it.
Being acknowledged for the work you do makes it easier to put up with a lot of the drudgery of keeping together a houseful of kids. It's money in the bank.