03/05/2015 02:39 pm ET Updated May 05, 2015

Teach Your Kids to Say 'Thank you' (and Mean It)

Ryan McVay via Getty Images

Yesterday, I seriously needed to disconnect from the tentacles of the Interwebs. I longed to be un-digitized and needed to get me some fresh air. And trees. Clouds. Green hills. I needed a hike.

Ten minutes from the house, The Pupster and I reach the trailhead. (No car required.) We climb from the valley to the ridge with its stunner views of the mountain, then we trudge down through the bay forest, up the muddy bridle path, along the hillside trail with its streams lined with sticky-monkey plants. Finally, we enter the eucalyptus grove, late afternoon light filtering through the canopy. As I walk, I smile at everything.

What my neighbors and I have access to is awesome. I am thankful for this landscape and how it restores my humanity. These hikes always put me in a kind and generous mood. I feel a kinship to every person and pooch I see. Appreciation and gratitude can do that.

But we take things for granted. And so do our kids. We don't show appreciation for what is provided. Even in our own family, we often don't thank each other. What I'm talking about is much more than teaching good manners. Without gratitude training, kids (and adults) become entitled. Fussy. Disrespectful. Persnickety. No fun to live with.

You don't need a hike to make your children more appreciative of what they have. But you should call a family meeting. You might start off by saying: "Everyone needs to feel appreciated, but sometimes we get lazy and forget to express gratitude. How do you feel when you've done something nice for someone and no one notices?"


Think of some of the many helpful and loving things family members do for each other on a regular basis. Make a list.


There are many ways to show appreciation. Saying "Thank you" is one. What are some others?

Gratitude Training

During this weekend, encourage your family to find ways to show your appreciation. Keep doing it. It will bring you all closer together.

Try this with your kids. Let me know how it goes.