Just Say Thank You, Dammit

by Joanna McClanahan
Originally Published: 
Marc Romanelli / Getty

Most of us are taught that manners are important, and that we should say things like “please” and “thank you.” Likewise, most of us want to hear someone thank us for the things that we do, even if it’s for something we’re supposed to do anyway.

So it’s surprising to me how few people actually take two seconds to say, “thank you.” Or say it so sparingly, as if they’re afraid they only get so many to use in this lifetime, so they hoard them as if they’re saving them for a special occasion.

This isn’t hard, people. Just say thank you, dammit.

Instead of saving up our “thank you’s,” we should be tossing them around like confetti. We should say it at every opportunity we get, and we should mean it.

I am a total stickler about this with my kids. We’ve been teaching them to say “thank you” for as long as they could talk. At first it was as if we were teaching them a habit, like saying “hello,” or a behavior to be practiced at certain times, like buckling their seatbelt.

But in time they were old enough to understand and practice actual thankfulness. Now we regularly talk with our 5-year-old daughter and help her reflect on the things that she appreciates and she’s truly grateful for. (If a kindergartener can grasp this concept, everyone else should be able to.)

The words “thank you” mean so much more than their two syllables let on. By taking the time to thank someone, you’re telling them you recognize and acknowledge their efforts. You’re treating them with respect, and letting them know you appreciate the time they took to help you, even if it’s their job.

I think it’s important to encourage our children to say, “thank you,” but I think it’s even more important to instill these feelings of respect and awareness for their own feelings, as well as the feelings of others. It’s this empathy that begets kindness and compassion — things we could all use a little more of in this world.

I want to teach my kids to understand this. I’m confident that they’ll want to be treated with that same respect and kindness, and I am hopeful that they’ll treat others the way they’d want to be treated.

We all thrive on recognition. Feeling appreciated can motivate us in ways that little else can. A tough day, or hard work, can feel worthwhile if we know that we’re valued.

And as it turns out, parenting is some of the toughest work around. And unfortunately, it can feel like one of the most thankless jobs too. Double whammy. As a mom, I often feel like my efforts are unnoticed or taken for granted. So when my husband or child takes the time to acknowledge me and tell me they’re grateful, it makes a big difference. HUGE.

We could all use a little more goodness in our lives, so let’s start by saying “thank you” to others more. It’s free. It’s easy. And it can be incredibly powerful to say these words, especially if the person you’re thanking really needs them or isn’t expecting to hear them.

Whether it comes from our children, spouse, relatives, friends, or a complete stranger: a little gratitude can go a long way. So let’s lead by example and make it a point to practice gratitude at every opportunity we get.

I’ll start. Thank you.

See how easy that was?

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