This is a guest post by J.J. Mogan, a writer for Parchment.
Any parent knows that getting children to complete even the simplest tasks, such as putting pajamas in the clothes hamper or turning a light off when leaving a room, is near impossible. How then are we expected to teach wee-ones the seemingly abject habit of writing thank-you notes? Don’t despair. All hope is not lost! In fact, we have some very simple tips every parent can implement into their usual routine to get their kids not only writing the thank-you, but actually writing great thank-you notes (with very little effort on both parts!).
There is one caveat though (isn’t there always?!)…. It all depends on YOU. Yes, you, the grownup in this parent-child dyad. Tips can come, and tips will go; but unless the parent chooses to take the initiative, set examples by writing thank yous themselves, are consistent in their expectations of the child, and follow through with consequences if notes are not written – your children will continue to avoid completing this, and all chores, at any cost.
1. Remember the Golden Rule of Parenting.
Always be the person you want your child to be. You want your child to write thank-you notes, which means you need to write them too. And make it obvious.
When an occasion arises for you to set a good example, such as your own birthday or a holiday, make a big production out of writing your next set of notes. Clear a place at the family’s kitchen table. Set all of your items out around you: notes, pens, address book, stamps, etc. Make an announcement such as “Mommy is taking a time put to write some thank-you’s now, so please let me have a little time to get this done”. Get your child involved: let them make suggestions on what to say, place a stamp on the envelope, or take the finished letters out to the mailbox. Monkey see, monkey do; kids like to emulate.
2. Help kids imagine the emotion behind the gesture.
A hard lesson for kids to learn is that they’re really thanking the person not for the gift but the thoughtfulness behind it. “Grandma thought a lot about what to give you this year.” Explain to the child the lengthy process a gift giver goes through to deliver a gift. Explain this to your child as thoroughly as possible. An example might be. “First Grandma had the idea that she wanted to get you something special for your birthday. Then she had to think about all the things you like to do. Then she had to go to the store to find something you’d like. Then she had to choose it, pay for it, and bring it home. Then she had to wrap it special and write a card for you. Then she had to make time to come to your party. Then she had to bring that present with her. PHEW! That is a LOT of work grandma had to do to get you this special gift! Wouldn’t it be nice if you took just a minute or two to write her a thank you for the gift and her thoughtfulness?”
3. Provide children with age-appropriate notecards or paper and help them with the message.
For very young children who do not yet write, a crayon picture of the child’s choosing created with the gift-giver in mind can be mailed along with a note by a parent saying something like, “Lucy created this for you in appreciation of her gift of a new doll for her birthday.” Budding writers can be given thank-you cards that only require a child to fill in certain blanks. While not as personal, this format encourages a youngster to write a note that may only include the salutation, the gift received, and name, but it’s a great first start! Older kids should write thank-you notes on their own; but providing them with their own grown-up style stationery with a monogram or design they help choose will get them engaged and feel as though this is an important step in their maturing.
4. Turn on kids’ creative juices.
Another way to get kids more involved in the “thank you” writing process is to ask them to come up with their own unique way of thanking Grandma. A few creative “thank you” card ideas for kids might include: making a video and emailing or posting it, taking a photo with the gift & using it as a postcard or taking M&M’s and glue to spell out your thank you on construction paper.
5. Enforce the “Write then play” rule.
You can do items 1-4, but the simplest way to get your children to eagerly write a thank you note for each and every gift they ever receive is to implement one simple family rule: “You must write the thank you note first, and then you may use the gift.” Period. End of story. Believe me, that mandate speeds up the writing process a thousand percent. And if they refuse? Well, I know more than a few hospitals and day care centers that would just love to get your donation of unused toys and books! Seriously, all you need to do is set the rule, and stick to it. Your kid will do the rest.
I’m eager to hear what works for you! Feel free to start a dialogue or comment below. And, if you’d like your child to learn how to write thank you notes, Clise Etiquette is teaching a two-hour children’s etiquette class on November 5 from 11am to 1pm in a lovely restaurant in Bothell. Get more information and register here.
Author Bio: J.J. Morgan is a writer for Parchment, a custom stationery boutique and online store catering to celebrity clientele since 1968.