In this age of email, text messages and instant everything, thank you notes can seem like a piece of ancient history to children. My son learned the hard way that many people continue to take thank you notes very seriously. His very proper grandmother decided not to acknowledge his birthday one year because of his oversight. This seared the importance of writing a proper thank you note into his mind once and for all. To be honest, I learned a little lesson myself in the process. Growing up, my free-spirited parents did not make this small convention a priority, so the habit was never properly ingrained. Looking back, I am embarrassed at how many times I dismissed the thank you note as unnecessary. If anyone I slighted is reading, thank you, and I’m sorry.
1. Address the Why. Stress the importance of a thank you note. Even when children are very young explain the process of picking out a special present. Explain that sending a note also lets the giver know the gift was received.
2. Make it Simple. Keep a supply of note cards that children can use. Young children can color a picture, or sign their name to a note you write. School-aged children should write their own.
3. Provide Coaching. Budding writers, and creative, talkative children, may be able to come up with a pageful of thoughts. Everyone else might need a little help. Encourage kids to specifically mention the gift and include a sentence or two on how they are going to use it, or what they plan on doing with it. Details really make the thank you note special.
4. Now. Teach children to write a thank you note immediately after receiving the gift if possible. Some parents do not allow the present to be played with, worn or spent, until the thank you note is sent. At the very least, set a deadline and stick to it.
5. Set an Example. This is one area I definitely failed in my early parenting years. Purchasing small note cards and a book of stamps helps keep me prepared. Remembering that a novel isn’t necessary just a acknowledgement helps the most. Consider writing a small thank you note to your child after they give you a small homemade gift or bring home a drawing from school. Showing them that thank you notes, follow gifts is a good way to show them the process.
6. Educational Tips. Incorporating thank you notes into writing lessons throughout the year helps build their thank you muscles. Work with kids and teach them to write small thank you notes to companies, authors and coaches.
7. Tell the Truth. While teaching kids to write prompt thank you notes, don’t encourage lies. If they hated the gift, help them phrase it in a tactful way. Let them know it was nice of the gift giver to think of them.
8. Personal. Avoid computer print outs, or just a photo of the child with the gift. A handwritten note is so much more charming and personal. Even if the handwriting is crooked and words are misspelled, these notes are precious.
Take the time to teach your child the art of the thank you note, set a good example, and fight the resistance. The rewards will continue to pay off when they go out on their own. Manners do not go out of style, in fact, those who retain good manners will stand out and make a positive impression on all they meet.