Thank you notes are on my mind today as I sit down with my kids and help them write their own.
I can remember my grandmother telling me to be sure to write her thank you notes. She wanted a thank you note for any and all gifts she gave us within one week of receiving said gift(s). She would watch the mail for those notes! Subsequently, I would always receive a comment about the notes as well: “I received it, thank you”! Or sometimes: “I haven't received your thank you note yet….is it coming?”
I used to think of writing thank you notes as a chore, or worse, as something to do in order to please someone else (in my case, my grandmother). I saw the exercise as pointless and meaningless.
The lost art of writing thank you letters
As technology has advanced and more people do things online, I have noticed a large drop in thank you note writing. Friends of mine have said things to me like “I don't have my kids write thank you notes because we are saving paper and reducing waste in landfills.”
While it may be true that writing thank you letters is a dying art, I believe that it still holds a great importance in helping shape our children. Doing so isn't a practice in futility. Writing and sending letters in the mail allows the sender to express gratitude in a meaningful way, and it gives the receiver a greater sense of weight and appreciation.
I have 5 important reasons for having your child write thank you notes.
Important Reasons for Having Kids Write Thank You Notes
Express gratitude in a sincere way (if not writing yet, just draw it!)
Whether you are a fan of writing cards or not, doing so in the very basic sense lets the gift giver know that the time and money they spent was meaningful.
On a deeper level, however, learning to be grateful may be crucial to having compassion, empathy, better relationships and even happiness.
Instill appreciation for who and what they have in their life
Gratitude starts with modeling. Very often, I pause with one of my kids and tell him “I am so grateful you are my boy”. I also demonstrate doing the same behavior with other people in my life in front of my kids: my husband, my family, and my friends.
Another way to demonstrate gratitude is to be mindful of how much we have. I also regularly demonstrate for my kids when I like something but don't purchase it because I already that the same or a similar item. For example, while we were shopping recently, I saw a soft throw blanket that I really liked. I let them watch me as I went through the process (outloud) of deciding whether or not to buy this blanket. They heard me saying things like: “this is soooooo soft” and “I LOVE the colors!”. I was also saying “we already have enough blankets for everyone in our family”.
They got to see that just because that blanket is available, we are not grateful for what we already have when we seek out other things that aren't needed.
Another thing that we do is when they receive a gift (one with a card, like a birthday gift) we open the card first to show you care about what they thought more than what they bought.
Teaches respect and responsibility
Writing thank you notes teaching kids about respect for other people and their feelings as well as responsibility.
While our kids shouldn't write thank you notes to people in order to please someone else, I do believe that it's important for kids to learn to take other people's feelings into consideration. For example, it makes Nana feel good to know that you received your gift and enjoy using it.
Keeping kids accountable for writing thank you notes also teaches responsibility. I have to do dishes, laundry and grocery shopping (to name a few). The kids make their beds, clean up their messes and write thank you notes.
It is a duty to express gratitude; however, just because it is a duty (or a responsibility) doesn't mean it needs to be a chore.
Practices reading and writing skills
I have one son who will sit down (without too much prodding) and gratefully write very nice thank you notes. He'll even ask me how to make it sound better as he writes.
My other two boys, on the other hand, are entirely different. It takes quite a bit more work to get them to sit down and write the letters. They don't want to go to the effort of reading and writing (preferring, instead to play with whatever they received).
However, they can both use all the practice with reading and writing as they can get, so I see this exercise as incorporating that practice without them even realizing it! Writing letters to Santa or a loved one is the same idea in this regard.
Benefits the letter writer as much or more than it does the recipient
The act of writing thank you cards not only practices reading and writing skills, it teaches empathy, compassion and gratitude. I really cannot say enough good things about doing it (can you believe it, Grandmother??).
*Bonus: it's fun to receive meaningful correspondence in the mail! For example, my kids writing thank you letters to their cousins in another state and receiving letters from them in return. They have a ball receiving mail specifically with their own name on it in the mail!
How to get those thank you cards written
- Schedule a time to make the thank you notes – rushing to do it in between a hundred other “chores” only makes it feel more like…well, a chore.
- Teach sincerity – my grandmother always said that it was important to pick something about the gift (or experience, etc) that is particularly meaningful for you and include that in the note.
- Make it a family event – don't do dishes while your child writes thank you notes. Instead, everyone sit down together and write notes as a family.
- Take it to the child's level – let them draw a picture, help them spell words, or be the designated writer while they tell you what to write. Have fun doing it together!
Don't just save thank you cards for physical gifts
Thank you notes don't have to be written only for physical gifts. They can also be written to express gratitude for special times together, a memorable experience, or even simply friendship!
If you haven't tried having your kids write thank you letters, give it a try…I think you'll find that the benefits far outweigh the work needed to accomplish the task.
Tell us in the comments below…do you or your kids currently write thank you cards?
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