“I spent the whole morning painting and doing origami and felting projects with my daughter – and not only did she not say “thank you,” but she refused to help clean up!” (I actually said this myself this morning:-))
“We took our son to Disneyland and went on every ride he wanted to go on except one, which was closed, and he spent the rest of the trip whining about how the whole trip was ruined because he didn’t get to go on that one ride.” (I hope I never have to say this one…I’m not sure I could make it through Disneyland in one piece.)
You might recall that we did an episode a while back on manners, and what the research says about teaching manners, and how what the research says about teaching manners comes from the assumption that manners MUST be explicitly taught – that your child will NOT learn to say “thank you” unless you tell your child “say thank you” every time someone gives them a gift.
We also talked about how parent educator Robin Einzig uses the concept of “modeling graciousness” and that if you treat other people graciously, when your child is ready, she will be gracious as well. The problem here, of course, is that most people expect your child to display some kind of manners before they are developmentally ready to really understand the concept behind it.
But what really underlies manners? Well, ideas like gratitude. Because when we train children to say “thank you” before they are ready to do it themselves they might learn to recite the words at the appropriate time, but they aren’t really experiencing gratitude.
Dr. Jonathan Tudge of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro tells us much more about this, and how we can scaffold our child’s ability to experience gratitude, if we decide we might want to do that.
Dr. Tudge’s book, Developing Gratitude in Children and Adolescents (co-edited with Dr. Lia B. L. Freitas) contains lots more academic research on this topic if you’re interested.
Halberstadt, A.G., Langley, H.A., Hussong, A.M., Rothenberg, W.A., Coffman, J.L., Mokrova, I., & Costanzo, P.R. (2016). Parents’ understanding of gratitude in children: A thematic analysis. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36, 439-451.
Kiang, l. Mendonca S., Liang, Y., Payir, A., O’Brien, L.T., Tudge, J.R.H., & Freitas, L.B.L. (2016). If children won lotteries: Materialism, gratitude, and imaginary windfall spending. Young Consumers 17(4), 408-418.
Mendonca, S.E., Mercon-Vargas, E.A., Payir, A., & Tudge, J.R.H. (2018). The development of gratitude in seven societies: Cross-cultural highlights. Cross-Cultural Research 52(1), 135-150.
Mercon-Vargas, E.A., Poelker, A.E., & Tudge, J.R.H. (2018). The development of the virtue of gratitude: Theoretical foundations and cross-cultural issues. Cross-Cultural Research 52(1), 3-18.
Mokrova, I.L., Mercon-Vargas, E.A., & Tudge, J.R.H. (2018). Wishes, gratitude, and spending preferences in Russian Children. Cross-Cultural Research 52(1), 102-116.
Nelson, J.A., Freitas, L.B.L., O’Brien, M., Calkins, S.D., Leerkes, E.M., & Marcovich, S. (2013). Preschool-aged children’s understanding of gratitude: Relations with emotion and mental state knowledge. British Journal of Developmental Psychology 31, 42056.
Tudge, J.R.H., & Freitas, L.B.L. (Eds.) (2018). Developing gratitude in children and adolescents. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press.
Wang, D., Wang, Y.C., & Tudge, J.R.H. (2015). Expressions of gratitude in children and adolescents: Insights from China and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 46(8), 1039-1058.