When my favorite uncle first met my daughter, then age three, he enthusiastically hugged her and gave her a toy he'd brought all the way from Uganda. My daughter wouldn't even hold it, let alone say "Thank you." I was mortified.
My daughter is now 17, and looking back, I realize that many factors could have contributed to her behavior: being unprepared for such exuberance, her natural shyness and biology. Kids under seven have difficulty understanding others' feelings and being internally motivated to do the right thing. Nonetheless, parents can actively, gently instill a sense of gratitude.
The matter goes way beyond etiquette. According to research by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, "people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined."
An attitude of gratitude helps us thrive. Try these steps to instill a mind-set of gratitude in your little ones.
Homa S. Tavangar is the author of "Growing up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World," the mother of three children ages 7 to 17, and a frequent speaker to audiences ranging from CEOs to K-12 communities.