“Do I have to?”
How I got my kids to write thank-you notes without losing my mind
Let’s face it, kids are great—but it’s just not in their natures to write thank-you notes. It is, however, in grandma’s nature to want to receive thank-you notes written by kids. And, it is in mom’s nature to want to make grandma happy while not creating a power struggle with the kids.
After a few years of suffering through the pouting, stalling and whining, the kids and I were able to find a more pleasant way to make the thank-yous happen (using only an occasional bribe or threat).
Keep the thank-you short and sweet
Most thank-you stationery is pretty tiny and will only accommodate a few sentences. And Grandma isn’t expecting the great American novel. By talking it out beforehand, the kids were able to come up with a few sweet words we all knew Grandma would love. I set the timer before one writing session, and my son was surprised to discover the whole process took less than 15 minutes.
Make it their own kind of thank-you
My youngest son, Danny, has always preferred creating artwork to writing words. He’d always enclose a drawing with his thank you. Grandma loved it and he enjoyed creating it. Using stickers, markers and other creative tools makes the task feel more like fun.
Use the thank-you as a teaching moment
It’s never too early to appeal to a kid’s growing sense of empathy. Once the boys were old enough to write, I’d appeal to them with, “It’s a little harder for Grandma to get around these days. But she still took the time to go out and find your Ghostbusters car. I’ll bet you can spend a few minutes writing a thank-you.”
Explain the logical benefits of saying “thank you”
Here’s one story I shared with my boys: When I was growing up, my Aunt Lyla would send me birthday cards with slots holding dimes. (And back then, those dimes added up to a lot of spending power!) One year, I didn’t write a thank-you. Guess what? She quit sending me the money cards.
I explained to the kids that Aunt Lyla wasn’t being mean. But when she didn’t receive a thank-you, she didn’t know if I even liked the money.
The big picture about thank-yous
I know of some families that find thank-you notes archaic or just too much trouble. It’s true that a phone call, email or text is a whole lot quicker and less stressful. But in a world in which kids can get almost anything “on demand,” taking time to show a little gratitude is good for everybody’s heart.
Molly Wigand is a Hallmark writer. She would like to thank her three sons for growing up to be good (and grateful) men. And for the record, she does not think this statement takes the place of an actual thank-you note.