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How do I Encourage My Granddaughter to Thank People Spontaneously?


I have a delightful 6 year old granddaughter who is generally well behaved and well mannered. The problem is that when she has been out to someone's place and it is appropriate for her to thank them for having her, she always needs to be prompted, and then when she finally blurts out the "thank you" it comes across as insincere (which I suspect it is when you have to be told to do something)

I have tried squeezing her little finger as a prompt rather than embarrass her by saying something in front of people, but to no avail.
I often take her to children's theatre and fun day trips, but never once has she given me a hug and said "Thanks Nanny, I've had a lovely day."

When her parents prompt her to look at me while saying thank you, she puts on a silly act before the insincere sounding "thank you."
Her parents have always rewarded her by saying "good listening" or "good manners" but I suspect that now she is 6 it should come naturally, and I wonder if she plays the 'game' to get the focus back on her.

Please help me Annie - I long for the day that she thinks to say thank you - and means it!

Frustrated Nanny, NZ

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Manners in Children - Part One
by: Annie Desantis


Manners are something that is really important for parents or grandparents, but really has little meaning for kids! We know manners grease the wheel of social interaction, but young kids are in the moment and say what they think without worrying about how it will effect others.

Unfortunately you can't prompt or train spontaneity. Most good manners, are really practiced rituals, that children more often than not see as a duty. So she is unlikely to be happy about being made to comply!

A lot of manners is learned behaviour, and more often than not, it actually is not sincere. We greet people and say "how are you", and we don't really want to know! Or say "very well thank you" when we are feeling dreadful. These little social interactions work to open up some kind of communication, but are often not very meaningful.

We often want our kids to have good manners because we think it reflects on us - how well we have bought them up! So we are really worrying about what people think of us.

You and her parents, are clearly working at reinforcing her good behaviour and appropriate responses, which is great. However if this thank you issue is becoming a big one, then I would try a different tack. It does sound like she is getting resistant and that defeats the purpose.

It also sounds like you are wanting her to let you know she appreciates the treats you take her to, and to do this requires quiet a degree of empathy for her to realize this is what you would like.

Empathy is more than just social graces and some children have a much stronger sense of empathy than others. Some of this is just personality, some of it is learned, but a child needs empathy to be able to put themselves in the position of someone else.

Kids are naturally very self centered and it often takes quite a leap to see things from another point of view. Children who have a lot of siblings, tend to have had lots of experiences of seeing reactions and understanding their impact on others. An only child, or when there is a very big gap between siblings means there are far fewer opportunities to see the world from a different perspective.

Part Two Follows . . . .

Manners in Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

Part Two . . .
Here's some ideas about how you can handle it differently:

Instead of waiting for the thank you, it would be more meaningful for her to talk about what she enjoyed. That way you are getting her spontaneous feedback, albeit not actually a thank you.

"Aren't you glad we saw that, what part did you like the best?"

"What did you do that was fun at . . . house?"

"You always have such a good time playing with . . . ., don't you?"

"What's the best thing about playing with . . . ?"

"What do you like most about visiting Nanny's house?"

In this way you are teaching her to express her pleasure about her time spent with others, rather than it ending in a power struggle of her being forced to be polite.

Kids also learn far more from what they see than from what they are told to do! I know you would be modeling good manners to her, but you can almost exaggerate your thank yous to her. I don't mean making it insincere, but make it very obvious and say why you are thanking her, or what you enjoy about her.

"Thank you for coming with me to the show, I really like having your company seeing these things"

"I love it when you make me these cards, it really makes me feel special"

"I love it when you give me a hug before you leave, specially when we have had such a lovely day."

"Thank you for being my grand daughter, I'm such a lucky Nanny"

You can also make a silly game out of it. Kids love seeing adults be silly, and it will have much more impact than being told off.

You can pretend to be her and go right over the top and say "Thank you Nanny for such a wonderful day, it was the best day in the whole world."

Then jump back and be Nanny, Oh no, thank you my gorgeous little grand daughter, having you with me was so wonderful."

Jump back again and be her,
"Oh no no, thank you Nanny, you are the bestest Nanny in the whole wide Universe."

"Oh no no no, thank you my beautiful little princess, the pleasure was all mine."

You get the idea! Being silly and over the top will get her laughing, and who knows after a few visits you might have her saying, "Oh thank you Nanny, you are the bestest Nanny in the whole world!"

You can also use the silly exaggeration game to show how you feel, pretend to cry and sob and say "I'm so unhappy, my little grand-daughter has forgotten to say thank you for the show. Boo hoo hoo, what will I do?"

She will probably get such a shock!

Then swap to being her, and go running up to where Nanny was and throw your arms around the pretending Nanny and say, "I'm so sorry Nanny, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I was so excited playing with the toys I forgot."

Be careful with this one, as making her feel bad and guilty is not really that helpful. You are really wanting her to get the experience from your perspective and give her some ideas. Just keep it light-hearted.

Part Three Follows . . .

Manners in Children - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Part Three . . .
Making things silly and fun, are actually a much better learning process. Even adults learn far better through playful interactions than authoritative lectures.

You can also practice hypothetical situations, perhaps not related necessarily to thank yous, but just to encourage empathy. Draw her attention to embarrassing situations or people with differences and ask how do you think they feel?

If someone is being unpleasant, you can even use that as an opportunity to teach empathy! "How do you think that man feels?" " I wonder what would make him feel happier?"

In a nutshell, don't make too big an issue out of this, your Grand daughter sounds lovely, and she is lucky to have a wonderful Nanny to share special times with. She will learn all those social graces in time, probably quicker if the pressure is off!

Enjoy your time with her, she will grow up far to fast!
Annie D

Thank you!!!!
by: Anonymous

Dear Annie,
Such sage advice, THANK YOU!
Can't wait to use it on my Granddaughter and make it a fun experience for her (and me!)

Have a Gratitude Day
by: Annie Desantis


Had more ideas come to me in the night! I was thinking having an afternoon making posters together about all the things in your life you love or appreciate would be a fun way to teach your Granddaughter to focus on gratitude.

We take so much for granted in our lives, running water, hot showers, lights at the click of a switch. Strawberries, raindrops on spiderwebs, puppies and of course our family.

Make it an activity you both do together, cut out pictures from magazines, you can draw something symbolic to represent people you love - "If Mummy was a flower what one would she be?" Make use colour, glitter, words or poems.

You can make a game for the day of everything you do saying thank you, or making a point of appreciating it. "I so love having toilets that flush", or "Thank you Mr Postman for delivering my letters." Just the ordinary every day things.

You never know Nanny might get a thank you too!

Annie D :)

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