Getting Your Child to Write Thank You Notes

Thank Yous Can Come in Simple Ways

Girl (6-7) writing Thank You card, smiling

 Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Giving thanks is an important lesson to teach kids year-round. What should parents do to help teach kids good manners, build character and show of appreciation? Here are some tips to help kids be grateful and make giving thanks to a positive and heartfelt experience.

Discuss the Importance of Thank You Notes

Discuss with kids that a loved one spent time selecting the special present, purchased it with their own money, wrapped it, and then delivered it--either in person or via mail. Ask them how they would know if someone liked a present they picked out and why a note is especially appreciated. Educate them as to a note's importance and how it lets a gift-giver know a present has been received and is appreciated.

Provide Age-Appropriate Card and Help Write 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, "Cindi created this for you in appreciation of her gift of a new doll for her birthday." Budding writers can be given the 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.

Allow Kids to Write Their Own Cards or Be Creative in Other Ways

While creativity is appreciated, not all kids can put that type of thought on paper and the worst thing would be for the thank you note to sound as if it were coming from you! Kids should be encouraged to tell a gift-giver thanks for the gift mentioned specifically but to also explain how or why the gift is especially appreciated. 

Remind Kids That It Is the Thought That Counts

All gifts should be acknowledged--even those that aren't exactly appreciated. A child should be taught that it is truly the thought that counts, and even if a 12-year-old is embarrassed to open the young kiddie game Candyland, a thank you is in order. Explain to the child that the game was still purchased in honor of their birthday, special occasion, or for the holidays. And, a younger sibling or a charity will truly love receiving the game!

Discuss Situations Where Cards Are Required

If a child thanks someone in person when opening a gift, a thank-you note is not necessarily required, especially when it is from a member of the family. But, they will absolutely be delighted to receive a note just the same. Gift exchanges do not typically require thank you notes or small token gifts given to groups. One mom requires all her kids to write a thank-you note to Santa and explains that he won't come next year unless proper respect and appreciation is shown for the gifts left the current year. 

Explain the Importance of Being Timely

Yes, timeliness is always important when writing a thank-you note. Some parents have adopted practices that a toy cannot be played with or clothes worn until a thank-you note is written. Others require notes to be written within a select number of days. Don't let days turn into weeks and then the note is forgotten in the midst of a child's busy schedule.

Think About the Educational Value of Card Writing 

Some teachers and child care providers have children write notes in conjunction with a writing lesson. Some ideas from teachers include writing a thank you note to parents to express appreciation for their support during the school year or to thank them for bringing snacks or treats to a special class party. One provider has her pre-schoolers write thank you notes each Valentine's Day to their parents for their love. A first-grade teacher has children write notes of thanks each Thanksgiving.

Model Good Behavior for your Child 

Let children see you writing thank-you notes and hear or read what you have written. What better way to teach good manners than by modeling the expected behavior.

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