“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).
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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.
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