Making lists always has been Mary O'Donohue's
strategy for staying organized. When the busy Westchester mom
turned one of those lists into a book, it became a bestseller.
When You Say Thank You, Mean It gives parents fun
activities to help their children practice one character-building
value, such as gratitude or respect, each month of the year. It
turns what children perceive as abstract concepts into concrete
lessons that last a lifetime, O'Donohue, 52, says. "I knew that
teaching them to have character was more important than any toy or
game I could ever give them."
Soon after its October 2010 release, it became the number
one bestselling parenting book on Amazon. It sold so quickly that
O'Donohue earned the coveted title of Amazon's Number One Mover and
Shaker for 2011. That same year, she won a Mom's Choice Award and a
Character Building Counts Award.
Surprisingly, O'Donohue is not a psychologist; she has a
career in TV production that includes 12 years with the Oprah
"I wrote this book from the perspective of a busy working
mom," she says. "I was concerned that teaching my kids values
was slipping through the cracks of my life, and I thought, I cannot
let that happen."
She and her husband Jim, who also works in TV production,
devised a list of 12 values they wanted to teach their children. To
drive home the message, O'Donohue illustrated each value with
She and Jim have seen the results of teaching
character-building skills with their own children, Connor, 15, and
Grace, 10, who get along well and know how to handle conflicts when
they arise. It's what motivated her to share what worked for their
family with the rest of the world.
To continue her book's mission, O'Donohue recently launched a website, which
she describes as "a bucket list with a twist."
Whereas a bucket list is about "adventures in
living," her website is about "adventures in
Visitors list one or two acts of kindness they intend to
do within a certain timeframe, such as volunteering at a food
pantry or collecting winter coats for the homeless. By putting it
in writing and giving themselves a deadline, they are more likely
to do it, O'Donohue says.
Later, they return to the website and share what resulted
from their kind act. In doing so, they cause a "ripple
effect" by inspiring others to give back.
"A ripple effect is something that can go on even after
you're gone," O'Donohue says. "That's how powerful compassion
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.