Thankfulness: Teaching Your Child to Write “Thank You” Notes
As adults, we know the value of a thank you note. But sometimes getting our kids to show gratitude to others seems like a lost battle. But with a little creativity and organization, you can make writing thank you notes more bearable for both you and your kids. The following guidelines from The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children, by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D., will help you ease your children into the art of writing thank you notes.
Setting the Groundwork
First, explain to your children why thank you notes are important. Tell them that is good manners to say thank you, it lets the giver know their gift is appreciated, and it shows that they are grateful for their gift. Somewhere in the note, have your child write about why the gift was important to them or how they have used it already. If the present was a gift card or money, let your child tell what they bought with it.
Use whatever system works best in your home. Some moms find that not letting their children play with a toy until the thank you note is written is ample motivation. Others make a point to sit down with their kids to write thank you notes immediately after a gift is received. If you have just celebrated a holiday, gather the family together to write your notes at the same time.
Keep It Age-Appropriate
There is no need to buy fancy monogrammed stationery for a three-year-old, but you may want to consider purchasing fun markers for your younger children and simple notecards for your older children. Here are a few guidelines based on age groups:
Even before your baby is born, he will start receiving gifts. So take a photo of the gift in the nursery when you send the thank you note. Once your child is born, start taking photos of the your baby with the gift and continue sending photos with your thank you notes.
Before your children learn how to write, they will become experts at doodling. So purchase some fun paper, markers and stickers for them to get creative. Let them draw a picture of the gift. Then write a separate thank you note on stationery and include their drawing with that. If they are old enough, let them sign their name on the note. Be sure to include your children in the process. Explain why you are writing the note, and why it is important. Gift-givers, especially grandparents, will continue to enjoy the photos sent with the notes, especially if they live far away.
Once your children begin to write, let them begin writing their own thank you notes, even if they are very basic. Let your children continue using the fun markers and pens, but consider buying them some age-appropriate stationery or thank you cards. And keep sending those photos. When they are younger, you can help by dictating the letter, or you can both write parts of the note. Older children can come up with their own content, although you may need to help them with spelling and word choices. Try to keep the mood light and fun while writing the notes.
When you notice your children are loosing their patience or attention span, take a break. Don’t expect them to finish off a stack of thank you notes at one time. You may need to take several small sessions to complete a whole set. No matter how much or little writing your children actually do, make sure they sign their own name and they help by putting on the stamp and placing the letter in the mailbox.
Older Tweens and Young Teens
Encourage responsibility and independence by giving your pre-teen more choices. Take them to the stationery store and let them choose their own set of thank you cards or stationery. Give them more freedom in choosing when to sit down to write their notes, but don’t let them wait too long. Continue working on the notes with them, but let them write their own content. And try to make the process fun for them. Play some lively music, set out some treats, or even sit with them at a local coffee shop while they write their notes.
Creativity in thank you notes isn’t just for young children. Let your teen customize her own card with artistic rubber stamp kits, digital photos, or calligraphy. If she is artistic, she could even design her own cards with drawings or watercolors. Or, if your teen doesn’t feel comfortable with the creative process, let her choose her own stationery or cards which reflect her individual personality.
Although most teens feel comfortable with online communication, encourage them to write hand-written notes. If their primary communication with the gift-giver is through email, then that is acceptable, but handwritten thank you notes are always preferred. Be sure to give your teen encouragement, such as letting them know any comments you receive from the gift-giver about the note.
As a basic life lesson, let your teen know that when they begin their job search, handwritten thank you notes will give them an edge in the interview process. So not only will their thank you notes to Grandma be appreciated today, but writing them will give your teens good practice for the business world.
When your children reach adulthood, they will be on their own to write their thank you notes, but you can continue encouraging them. Without nagging your adult child, remind them to send thank you notes, give them positive reinforcement, and give them sets of thank you notes and stationery as gifts. Once they have their own children, encourage them to follow the same traditions you set for them. And be sure to let both your children and grandchildren know how much you appreciate their thank you notes.
Sometimes getting your kids to write thank you notes can be a difficult process. But keeping the process fun will help things go much smoother. Whenever possible, write your notes together as a family, keep the environment fun, provide favorite snacks and drinks, and even offer to take them out for ice cream after. And when possible, take photos of your children with their individual gifts to include in the thank you notes — it will involve your children in the process, and the gift-giver will appreciate the effort. And always make sure your kids understand that showing gratitude and thankfulness are important parts of receiving gifts.
This article is based on information from the book, The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children, by Peggy Post and Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D. Click here to order from Amazon.com.
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