Raising Children Who Write Thank You Notes

 

 

Rebekah posed this question on Facebook yesterday:

“Do you write thank you notes for Christmas gifts? Do you expect them?”

 

And, of course, I replied. I told her that yes, I did. And no, I no longer expect them– and that’s pretty sad. (For the record, we do receive a fair number of them– my parents, my sibs, and my best friend are very good about them. So there is that.) But we give out many more gifts than that… and hear nary a word about them.

 

If you, like me, think that it’s a sad thing for people to have given up on the polite act of thank you writing, I have a few tips for you to ensure your own kiddos keep the tradition going. My kids don’t bat a lash at writing thank you notes and two out of three of them often mention it before I even bring it up!

 

 

Keep thank you cards on hand at all times.

 

Let’s face it– most of the time, we know when to expect gifts. There’s no excuse not to have thank you notes at-the-ready around birthdays and Christmas. I buy several packs at a time and restock anytime the stack gets a little low. That way, I never have the “oh, we don’t have a thank you card!” excuse to toss out. I just grab one and do it.

 

Write them very soon after the occasion.

 

Speaking of just doing it, that’s my next tip– write them soon after receiving the gift. The more time that goes by, the less likely you, and your children, are to do it. Consider how much longer a week is to a child, too. By January 14th, Christmas is a distant memory. Have the cards ready and just get them done. Prompt gratitude is a real and rare treasure these days!

 

Allow them to help choose or make the cards.

 

I’ll be honest– I buy our thank you cards. I know that we’re more likely to get them done in a timely manner if we use pre-made. Some people prefer to get crafty. Either way, let your kids be involved. I make sure to have a wide array of cards on hand and I always let them choose which they’d like to use. You’d be amazed how much joy a simple thing like CHOICE can bring to a child!

 

Help in age-appropriate ways.

 

When your littles are really, really little, you have to do most of the work, for sure. Ask your child what he loves most about a gift and write that down. Have her describe how she felt when she opened it. Try to let their words shine in your writing.

 

For preschoolers and kindergarteners, I typically write a “fill-in-the-blank” card for them to complete. Something along the lines of:

“Dear ______,

Thank you so very much for the ______! I love the _____. I bet it will be so much fun to _____. Love, _______.”

 

By first or second grade, many children can write the notes independently. If not, I’ll write a script on a separate paper and have her copy it into the card in her own handwriting.

 

Let them see YOU writing them.

 

People often say the best way to raise a reader is to read to them often. While that’s definitely a great thing to do, numerous studies have shown that the best way to raise a reader is to be seen reading frequently. Same goes with thank you notes. If you want your child to learn that writing them is just “what you do”? You need to do it. Be a great example.

 

Praise them for initiating on their own.

 

One day, with all this groundwork set, your child might come to you and say, “I need to write a thank you note to so-and-so for…” fill-in-the-blank. Acknowledge his kindness. Praise him for having such a thoughtful response. Remind him how good it feels to be the recipient of gratitude and tell him you appreciate that he’s showing his thankfulness in a tangible way.

 

Does your family write thank you notes? How do you encourage your children to put their gratitude on paper?

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14 comments to Raising Children Who Write Thank You Notes

  • mlearley

    I must admit, I’m not good at sending Thank You cards or any card for that matter. However, for the special occassions like wedding gifts, baby shower gifts I make sure to send a card. The last few birthday parties for my children, I have helped them write out thank you cards. So I guess I’m doing OK but not as good as I should. Thanks for the reminder and tips. This year my 4 yr old was only able to sign her name to all of them and of course our 1 yr old didn’t have any input. ;c)

    • It gets easier as they can shoulder more of the responsibility, I think. And good for you for doing the birthday party thank yous! I must say– we receive precious few of those and it makes me sad. Not for me, but because my children always wonder if their friends even liked the gifts they gave. :(

  • Kathy

    Maybe we take the wrong approach, but we write thank you notes for unexpected gifts, gifts in the mail, kind thoughts or deeds. When you are sitting with your whole family opening Christmas or birthday gifts, we say thank you right then in person usually with a hug. Then we also try to say thank you again when we depart. I feel that thank you notes are for when you can’t thank someone in person or for something extra special or over the top. Just my thoughts.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that approach, particularly if you’re blessed with all local family and friends. Such is not the case for us, so birthdays and Christmas involve plenty of mailed things, as well. :) Even given that, I always prefer to err on the side of TOO polite, I guess, and I do ask that my children write thank you notes, even for those things for which they’ve already said “thank you” in person. (< – that doesn’t make it necessary or even “proper” by etiquette guidelines– it’s just what works for us! :) )

  • We do it similarly to the way Kathy described. We only send thank you notes for gifts received/opened when NOT in the presence of the gifter.

    In fact, there’s actually a thank you note sitting in front of me as I type this. I need to finish it and get it in the mail!

  • Sonja

    Yes, we do thank you cards. I put some in my kids’ stocking. This morning, my 6 yo of his own initiative wrote a thank you card to his grandparents & parents. He put mine on my pillow. I love it!

  • I just bought a CUTE box of 50 Thank yous from Target for $10! They had other ones that were $12 and $15 that were a wee fancier. They have pink and red dots for my baby shower Thank Yous, but I’m going to use it for Christmas too…we’re slacking though. I need to get them out.
    SOmetimes I also use a picture my son has drawn.

  • Susan

    Thank you notes are always correct and should be sent for every gift given. If the children are young, have them draw a picture and sign their name. My 11 year old finished 14 thank you notes the week after Christmas. He did them on the computer this year and each note had 2-3 photos on the page (including one photo of him showing off the gift.) These Thank you notes were mailed, not emailed.

    I expect proper thank you notes from every person I sent a Christmas gift. I just received one from my mother…

    • Oh, I LOVE having young children involved by drawing pictures! What a great idea for your 11yo to attach the photos with the thank you– I would love to receive a “thank you” like that. :)

  • Jackie Crawford

    That’s for this great post. I’m raising my kids to write thank you notes, just as my parents raised me to. There’s something about taking time out, sitting down and handwriting a note to someone that, to me, is respectful. I feel like we’ve become so out of touch with life and values due to the convenience of electronics and the internet. My husband and I just read a great book called “Teaching Kids to Be Good People” by Annie Fox, M.Ed. You can check her and the book out on the website http://www.anniefox.com/. It’s a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to anyone. Thanks again for the post!

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