You should make your child write thank you notes.
There, I said it. Call me old-fashioned. Roll your eyes at me. I totally get it. There is a lot on your plate, and you are doing everything you can just to get your children out the door in the morning in more than a stinking swimsuit (maybe that’s just me…?) It is hard as heck to take care of the day- to- day things we have to do as moms, and here I am trying to layer on ONE more thing to make you feel guilty?! I have to tell you the bad news is that writing thank you notes really is one of those essential life skills that you need to teach your darlings before launching them into the great wide world. Why?
1) It’s good manners to write thank you notes.
Have you ever given someone a gift only to have it go unrecognized? Maybe you’ve sent a gift in the mail or dropped off a card and check to someone, only to wonder if they ever received it? That awkward feeling is why you need to send a thank you note. People need to know first, that your child received their gift, and second, that they appreciated it.
It’s easy to forget that manners don’t come naturally to children.
Good manners may not have the weight behind them that they once did in our busy world. Taking the time to teach my daughters what a thank you note is and how to write one is time, I think, well spent. I taught them, after all, how to say “thank you.” Why wouldn’t I also teach them how to write “thank you.”
2) Thank you notes teach children to be grateful.
My kids receive a lot, and I want them to recognize just how lucky and privileged they are. Gratitude, studies show, is associated with greater happiness, positive feelings, and connection with friends and family.
We try to share something we’re thankful whenever we sit down at a meal together. Writing thank you notes, often at the same table we eat at, is a logical extension for the girls.
3) Writing thank you notes will help your child become a better communicator.
There’s just something about writing a note, putting it in an envelope, applying a stamp, and putting it in the mail that is exciting for young children. Authentic opportunities for writing, like writing a thank you note, are an important way to help build your child’s writing skills which will only improve with practice.
4) Writing thank you notes will make your child a better person (and more employable in the future).
If someone helps your child, teaching them to take the time to thank that someone is one way you can help them become less self-absorbed and entitled.
As your child moves out into the world, it’s important that they learn how to thank the many people who will help them. Teachers will write recommendation letters for them, a mentor will spend extra time with them, they’ll have internships and job interviews, etc. Taking the time to write a note to someone who helps them along their path, is an important way for your child to show their appreciation and, as they move into the job market, that they know how to write and how to be polite.
Let’s get real. Life happens. So when is it reasonable to skip the thank you note?
I’m pretty sure Emily Post would disapprove here, and I know my mother is sighing and shaking her head at my sacrilege (sorry, Mom!). In an ideal world, we’d all write charming and eloquent thank you notes promptly upon receiving each and every thoughtful gift. Life is hard sometimes though, and we have to make choices.
Here’s how I prioritize:
- Always write notes for gifts that come in the mail.
- Always write thank you notes for big ticket items.
- Always write notes to relatives or friends who are elderly or who see your family infrequently.
- Try to write thank you notes for gifts from visiting family or friends. My mother-in-law gave me permission one year to stop writing thank you notes for any gift she was present to see the girls receive, which makes sense to me. The girls are pretty good about saying thank you in-person with a hug and a few words and that’s often all a person really needs.
- Never write thank you notes for gifts received at a children’s birthday party. I say this because it’s almost impossible to deliver the thank you notes to kids at school who would likely struggle to read your kids’ note anyway. Also, these notes typically don’t make it home to the actual parent who presumably purchased the gift.
Moving forward, I’m hoping my girls will write more and more independently and learn to line the stamp up on the right-hand corner of that envelope for themselves. Maybe they’ll start to write more than their appreciation in their notes to our family and develop true correspondences. Maybe when I find their lost library book or buy them new sneakers or drive them to their next soccer game, they’ll take a moment to show some appreciation.
What’s for sure is that we’re all a little better as people for taking the time to say, “thank you.”