I am a big fan of thanking our children for doing things, even if they are required to do them.
I have heard another philosophy about it: “No, we will thank them for going above and beyond. What, are we going to praise them for simply doing their job? Are we going to reward mediocrity?”
My answer to that question? Yes. We will reward mediocrity. Follow me for a second: Mediocre work will receive mediocre rewards. If you do bad work, you’ll probably get fired. If you do mediocre work, you’ll probably get paid mediocre, but you won’t get ahead. If you do excellent work, our hope is you will get noticed, and you will get ahead.
Yet, regardless of whether the work is mediocre or excellent, I will demonstrate courtesy in all things. When I go to a restaurant, I give the person money, and they give me food. You know what I say when that happens? “Thanks.” I do not think “I shouldn’t need to thank you, I’m giving you money, aren’t I?”
In any business transaction, I believe that the seller should thank the buyer, and the buyer should thank the seller. No one is better than the other. In the exchange, both sides should show courtesy.
In an employer/employee relationship (which, by the way, is the same as the above transaction: The employer is buying a service or labor, the employee is selling their time, skills, and services), I believe that employer should thank employee, and employee should thank employer. I am confident that I, as am employer, am providing a good experience and a good workplace for my employees. I also know that their work, their effort, their blood, sweat, and tears, is making my life and my school better. It’s giving me the chance to travel and train. It’s giving me opportunities for family time when we need it. So I am VERY thankful for all that they do. When I win, they win, and when they win, I win.
It’s our job, as employer and employees, to make sure that BOTH parties’ lives are enriched and better because of the transaction. Therefore that mentality of “I shouldn’t have to thank you, I’m paying you!” doesn’t fly with me. Courtesy in all things.
So bringing this concept back to parents and kids, we have a few rules we should play by.
- If my kid resists me by disobeying, fighting, arguing, whatever, I have to win the conflict. But, since winning the conflict will make them feel less powerful, I have to, at some point in the NEAR future, find another way to EMPOWER them to do good.
The child might see that they have the power to upset other people, like me. So my next mission is to find a way to show them that they have the power to make someone’s day better, to make them happier.
Because if a child (or anyone, really) feels powerless, they will hate that feeling, and the next step is to grab at ANYTHING that makes them feel powerful, whether it’s good or bad. Often, they will find that power through upsetting siblings, parents, and teachers. We need to supply good things that make them feel that they matter, that they have power to affect the world around them.
- Showing my child courtesy is more effective than “requiring courtesy”.
I have found that the number one way of teaching kids to say “Thank you” is by…well…thanking them. Examples are always more powerful than words.
- Every moment is a new moment. If my child was rude an hour ago, but then courteous now, the courtesy now is what we’ll focus on.
Because simple behaviorist psychology says: If they are courteous, and they get a negative response, then they’ll stop being courteous. Heck, so would adults, so why would we expect more of kids?
Each moment, bad or good, is a new moment. Following the rules yesterday doesn’t get you OUT of trouble today, but likewise, if you are good today, there is no need (in fact, we need NOT to) bring up yesterday.
So, in closing, let us set up our kids to win. When we win, let’s make sure they win. And when they win, we win.