November 19


The Two Words That Can Change Your Child

On the day we are all giving thanks, it is important to reflect on what impact the two little words "Thank you" will have on your child.

My ten-year-old daughter always makes me smile when she says “thank you” the moment dinner is set on the table, all on her own. It is just a moment of gratitude, but it is so important in ensuring that something routine does not become moot.

Though it may often seem that gratitude is about what we give, it is also a lot about what we receive in return.

Gratitude is an early core social-emotional skill that fosters children’s social learning, successes, and relationship skills.

According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology, grateful children tend to be happier, more optimistic, and have better social support. As an occupational therapist, I often strive to teach children techniques for coping, attention and social bonding.

The words, “thank you”, are a tool I always keep handy.

Benefits of gratitude:

  • A major benefit of gratitude is the boost in cognitive empathy skills.

    When we express thanks to another person, we are essentially stepping into someone else’s shoes for a moment, reflecting upon the effort they directed towards us. It may only be a moment, but these moments create a web of thankfulness that links us to the good all around us.
  • I said that gratitude can also serve to boost relationships and success. This may seem like an obvious one, but for kids, the link is not always so clear. 
  • Gratitude helps us reach satisfaction with our own lives which spills over into success in other areas.
    Our attitude has the power to change the way we see our world and with a positive mindset, a child can feel unstoppable. Through just the power of the mind, your child will improve cognitively and socially.
  • Gratitude can also help to decrease stress and build social bonds. When a child becomes more focused on the goodness in his own life, he may find it easier to stop comparing himself to the abilities or expectations of other individuals.

    Many kids suffer from the burden they place on themselves when they feel they are not quite “up to par”. Gratefulness paves the path to clear these worries and begin to develop closer connections. Though your child may indeed be experiencing challenge in his life, being grateful is one big step towards achievement.  

As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more encouragement you give towards your child to say, “thank you” and express gratitude, the better they get at it and the more natural it becomes.

Teaching Gratitude


  1. With your preschooler, focus on being grateful by saying thank you for the small things. Your toddler is reaching out for love and attention and has a natural inclination towards appreciation.
  2. It might seem like a push at first, but your toddler just needs your help to squeeze that gratitude out of their system.
  3. Give your little one gentle reminders about the actions in their environment, by parents, siblings, teachers, or peers, so that instead of making it feel like a chore, gratitude is something they come to all on their own.

Grade School

  1. As your child grows and progresses to grade school, it is important for them to acknowledge the goodness occurring all around them, even in indirect actions.
  2. Asking them to reflect on their day is a great exercise towards gratefulness-searching for the little things that made us smile. 
  3. This age is also an important stage for reflection, digging a little further past the words of “thank you”. Do not underestimate the value of the good old thank you note in this busy world.
  4.  Have your child design thank you cards and write out their words of thanks when they receive an unexpected surprise.


  1. When your kid hits his teenage years, “thank you” does not lose its meaning. As we grow older, the habits of youth begin to slip away. However, teenagers need the positivity in their lives that words of thanks bring.
  2. We are thankful for our family, our friends, our school, our talents. However, these are not a given, and saying thank you out loud is a good reminder to stop and be grateful, even just for a moment.
  3. It is also important to practice directing a heartfelt “thank you” to a person in our life, be it a friend, a stranger, a child, or a parent. It’s a boost, for the receiver and for ourselves.

We all know there is no better way to educate than through modeling behaviors ourselves.

Use your children as a good excuse to see the gratitude in your life. With these quick reminders, next time your child notices something going right, those two little words will quickly come to mind.



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