When my daughter, Christina, was small I took her weekly to Suzuki violin lessons. After an intensive hour of tuning, fingering, bowing, ear training, phrasing and performing the musical pieces, the bow was loosened and the half-size violin securely closed into its case. Then the teacher, Mrs. Sloat, would pick up a cut-glass, covered candy dish in which she kept treats for her students. She held the dish in the air with one hand grasping the knob of the crystal lid. She bent close to the little pig-tailed girl, and her elderly face was a picture of captivating anticipation.
“What is the magic word?” she’d ask.
“Please,” said my daughter shyly but eagerly.
Then the lid was lifted off the candy dish and Christina was allowed to choose and take two pieces. But that wasn’t the end of the session yet. Mrs. Sloat held the lid in the air above the dish with another irresistible look of expectancy in her face.
Little Christina knew what was expected. So she said the other magic word: “Thank you.”
Then Mrs. Sloat replaced the glass lid with a soft musical clink and set the candy dish back upon the table, the weekly ceremony completed, and a child trained, motivated, and rewarded.
We teach our small children, from the time they can speak in syllables, to say “thank-you.” We’re pleased when teachers and others support us in that endeavor of encouraging politeness and gratitude in our children. Then, how rewarding it is when they begin to say thank-you all on their own. Magic words indeed!
When your child comes to you with nothing to gain, not asking for anything but expressing unsolicited, heartfelt appreciation, the reward is sweeter than candy to the fine-tuned parental heart.
My husband and I experienced this when our son and then our daughter went away to college. Our training was pretty much completed. Now it would be tested. And there was no guarantee that our children would heed or appreciate the upbringing they received. Doubts plucked at my parental heart: Did we prepare them well enough? Did we teach them all we should have? Will they leave home and embrace a different way?
After a few weeks of college dorm life and hearing about other students’ family situations, our son called home and said, “Mom, Dad, I’m so thankful for you both! I never realized before what good parents I have. Thank you for all you’ve done for me. And for who you are.”
Happy tears came to our eyes as we hung up the phone that day. Love is the reward of love. And hearing your grown children say, “Thank you,” is music to parents’ ears.
~ Catherine Lawton