Why is it Hard to Thank Your Kids?

Recently, when I came in from an early morning run (brag), my eldest son, Nick (9), was sitting on the living room couch reading.

Background Information

All three of my sons are early risers. We established a 5:30am rule, where they could not come downstairs before then.

Each boy is allowed to pick a show/movie to watch in the morning, with a duration of 15 to 20 minutes. What ended up happening was that if two brothers were sleeping in, the awake brother would sit quietly watching his show past the 15/20 minute time limit until another brother woke up, came downstairs, and made his selection. Therefore, whoever woke up first had the potential to engage in way too much television watching.

To eliminate this loophole, we asked all three boys to stop watching television after 15/20 minutes, no matter if another brother was awake or not. Seems like an easy and reasonable solution. However, the temptation to watch five additional minutes of “Is It Cake?” is as strong as the pull from The One Ring to Rule Them All (Isildur’s Bane…I looked it up). And, is easy to pull-off without the presence of a parent.

When I walked in to find Nick reading, it was nothing Earth shattering or overly impressive. But, it did lead to this exchange:

Me: “What are you doing?”

Nick: “Reading.”

Me: “Oh. How come you aren’t watching your show?”

Nick: “The timer went off.”

Me: “Timer?”

Nick: “Yeah, I set a 15 minute timer on Alexa. When it went off, I turned off the TV.”

Me: “Got it.”

This exchange isn’t meant to highlight how wonderful my kids are (although they are pretty great). Rather, it’s to call attention to the fact that I said “Got it” instead of “Thank you.”

Working in education, “Thank you” is a regular phrase in my vernacular. I find it easy to thank teachers for going above and beyond to support students. I verbalize my appreciation for parents who volunteer their time to work a cafeteria duty shift. I thank students for their quiet feet and silent waves in the hallways.

I can say “Thank you” to other people’s kids, just not my own.

3 Hypotheses on Why It’s So Hard to Say “Thank You”

  1. I shouldn’t have to say it. As parents, we set the rules, and it’s the responsibility of our kids to follow those rules. They shouldn’t need praise to do what’s expected.
  2. It’s a sign of weakness to thank your own children. I’m the dad, and for all I’ve sacrificed for them, they should be thanking me, not the other way around.
  3. When “Thank you” comes from a true sense of appreciation, it is emotionally charged. It makes you vulnerable and could potentially lead to an awkward interaction with your child.

I am the first to admit that the first two reasons are really stupid. Just because they’re stupid, doesn’t take away from their validity.

For me, it’s probably a combination of all three. However, I believe that reason number 3 is the major factor contributing to my lack of giving thanks. I tell myself that I am doing my boys a favor by not subjecting them to an uncomfortable conversation with Dad.

Hopefully, this post will serve as a form of catharsis, allowing me to thank my boys for all the wonderful things that they do and joy they bring to my life.

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