Pope Francis wrote that there are three essential words in the family: “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry.”
When we use “please,” we are showing respect rather than being overbearing. When we use “thank you,” we demonstrate gratitude and appreciation for what another does. When we have done something wrong, we need to say “I am sorry,” because this helps our families experience peace and joy.
If we want more peace and joy in our homes, we must use these words regularly. If we want to foster respect, gratitude, and forgiveness in our marriages, we must lead by example and say “thank you” and “sorry” often. We can raise our children with gentleness and patience by teaching them to say these three words and “keep repeating them, day after day,” as the Holy Father instructs.
It is of primary importance that we say these things with an authentic heart – they hold no meaning when they are empty words. In our private prayers and those we share as a couple and family, we ask God for the grace to say “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry” and truly mean them in our hearts.
We can also find creative ways to teach our children to say these three words authentically. Showing respect and thankfulness are like any new skill – it takes much practice to perfect a practice.
Here are a couple of ideas for fostering this in the home:
During family dinner or during family prayer time, ask each person, “What are you thankful for?” They can respond in prayer with, “Thank you God for…” They may also express their appreciation for their family members: “Thank you mom for helping me with my homework today” or “Thank you dad for providing us with the roof over our heads.”
After everyone has expressed what they are thankful for, you can reinforce the lesson by reading a passage that highlights our call to give thanks. You may choose the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17, or read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Colossians 3:15–17, or Philippians 4:6. There are many Scriptures that illustrate the importance of a grateful heart.
Perhaps the next day you may ask, “Is there someone who you need to apologize to for something that you did or did not do?” Parents may need to go first, beginning with, “I am sorry for…” and then asking, “Will you forgive me?”
Then you may read the story of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 or the Prodigal son in Luke 15. You may also read and pray the Lord’s Prayer, reminding everyone God forgives us using the same measure by which we forgive others.
If your children forget to use “please” when making a request, add an extra task to help them remember to be polite. For example, they may repeat their request and give their sibling or you a hug before their request is met. If you aren’t fond of this idea, start brainstorming! There are many ways to make these essential phrases part of the daily vocabulary in your family! THANK YOU for reading!