Teaching My Kids the Value of a Thank-You Note

I’m a modern gal but sometimes I find certain parenting principles a bit overrated. For instance, I cringe when other people’s kids call me Mrs. Grossman. I get that they need to learn manners and respect and all that, but I feel like I’m missing my strand of pearls and bouffant hairdo.

I am still old-fashioned when it comes to some values, and my kids are the ones cringing when they hear the words, “You need to write your thank-you notes.”

Though we’ve embraced the electronic age in this house, a quick thank-you email just won’t do, even though the kids always ask. Schools may be leaning away from cursive, and maybe away from handwriting in my kids’ future, but I think my kids should know the value of a handwritten note sent through the post. They experience the thought put into a letter that was held by their grandmother, written in her unique penmanship on a card she picked out just for them to make them smile. She told them about her hermit crab or about the wildlife in her backyard. She took a minute to connect. She tucked in a swatch of fabric to show what the new doll bedspread will look like or maybe a few dollars to spend. My kids know this joy because someone put the time in to do it for them. Why shouldn’t they return the thoughtfulness? Not all of that can be done through an email.

When my kids sit at the table to write a thank-you note, they get out their colored pens and make every word a rainbow or they draw a picture of a roller coaster they rode together over the summer. Handwritten notes come from the heart. They’re personalized and sometimes a little too honest. They can be kept forever, the handwriting a testament to a child’s age at the time.thank-you notes

Reading what my kids write in them can definitely be a laughing matter. When my son received a dictionary from his grandparents for Christmas, his thank-you note stated, “Thank you for the dictionary. It makes a good ramp for my Matchbox cars.”

My daughter recently had a birthday. Seven seems so grown-up. I realized just how much when I read my daughter’s note. “Thank you for the gel pens. They work just perfectly.” To the giver of two Lego sets she wrote, “I put both sets together and they both look great.”

The giver doesn’t need to know that my kid stomped around for an hour in a sour mood before sitting down and letting that syrupy sweet prose flow from her pen. Givers don’t need to know that I eventually hound my kids for days to write their thank-yous and make idle threats in extreme cases. It’s like lighting a fire to damp wood, not impossible if you know what you’re doing.

The fact is, my kids learn by example. They try to write something meaningful by imitating the thoughts they’ve received in notes. It may come off as cute and a bit amusing now, but down the road I know my kids’ writing skills will be more heartfelt, spot-on, and exactly what the recipient wants to hear: that my kids appreciated being thought of. I know my kids are learning. They say their thank-yous in person to me. No fumbling, no fuss, just straight from the heart.



Filed under Everyday Life

23 responses to “Teaching My Kids the Value of a Thank-You Note

  1. So few parents insist that their kids write thank-you notes–and it is indeed a HUGE deal. It’s good to know there’s another inflexible mom out there who doesn’t yield to the whines or complaints. I do so love how they write (and illustrate) and what they write. And all the exclamation points that end every sentence. As my nine-year-old might write: I really, really like your post today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • ThAnK YoU!!!!!!!!!! You are very nice to say that. You made my day. (Is that long enough or do I have to write more?)

    • Totally agree with the value of a good ol’ fashion thank you note. During the unwrapping of presents I am always thinking about how long the whole thank you note writing process will take …. once they are done I always think about skipping presents at the party next year 🙂


  2. Really cute. And, I’ll tell you, there is so much worth in a handwritten thank you note. My husband and I have all the handwritten notes we’ve received in the past two years on the fridge. They might stay there forever!

  3. lisa

    I agree except that I still have to write the thank you notes for my youngest one. What a pain.

  4. Dimples is required to do thank-you notes, too. She expects it now, so she doesn’t really grumble about it any more.

  5. Great post, as usual Karen. You made me audibly laugh on the pearls and bouffant comment.

    Getting my kids to write thank yous is way harder than getting them to quit ice cream and dairy. It’s ongoing. It helps a little that the girls have their own “kits,” complete with blank cards, die cuts, glitter pens, and stamps, but the boys just are that into craftiness. For them, it’s a post card, something cool on one side (robots, lego, star wars), with only a 3″ square to write something in and an address column. It’s not optimal, but at least they do it. Sometimes, the hardest part is just finding someone’s postal address.

    I am absolutely the worst model for thank-yous. I do get to them (eventually), but they’re sometimes months late and wind up being a hand-written letter (to assuage my guilt for the time lapse), which takes up way more time.

    I need to get myself a cutsie die-cut kit, methinks.

  6. Totally agree. Funny because I read this yesterday just minutes after I put the last stamp on the thank-you notes for my boys’ birthdays. My five-year-old just filled in his name on every card and by the last card he was tired, all “what’s my name again?” and forgetting how to spell it, but it is such an important thing to do.

  7. I’m right there with you on thank you notes and being called Mrs. Most of my daughters’ friends call me Ava’s mom or Rhys’ mom even when I ask them to call me Mary. Funny. I love getting thank you notes and enjoy sending them. I hope some of my enthusiasm will rub off on my girls, but so far, it’s still a push. Great topic and post!

  8. Lu

    Yup! I agree with you! Especially, when they start to go on job interviews a hand-written thank you note will put them at the top of the pack.

  9. nothing better than a handwritten note

  10. You are right on about the thank you notes. My kids started with scribbles and I wrote what they wanted to say. We moved to “Thank you for the…..” as they could form letters and progressed from there. They now (19 and up) are marvelous writers of thank you notes. My daughter and son both wrote us notes to thank us for efforts for their weddings! And recently, one grandmother confessed it was these kids which kept her honest on thank you notes – and she’s 85. She could quit but loves the tradition, too. Handwritten correspondence – nothing beats it, you’re right.

  11. Awesome:) I wish I were better at this. I’m glad someone is continuing to teach this. Angie

  12. Just catching up on the happenings at MuddledMom, and I love this one. 1) I still love getting “snail mail” and the way a simple, handwritten card can really make your day so much brighter. Through social media, I’ve met a lot of people who have CF, and part of the disease is that they can not be around other people who have CF, because they can cross-contaminate and make each other a whole lot sicker. So, they stay connected through social networks AND sending each other care packages… goodies, nail polishes, and handwritten words of encouragement. It’s brilliant. And 2) your posts are ALWAYS heartfelt, and I know for sure that your children are learning that straight from you. They will appreciate it one day. And maybe send you a note to say thanks, mom. 🙂

    • Aw, you are so kind.

      You know, I did not know that about cystic fibrosis. I guess that makes supporting each other difficult, but it looks like you’ve found a way around it. Thanks for sharing that example.

  13. Karen, I’m late here to this post. But you are so right — it makes a huge difference. I pretty much stopped giving my brother’s kids gifts because I never even find out if they received them.

    That thank you note for the dictionary is priceless!

    • We cracked up when we read it. And we sent it on. I think sometimes thank-you notes can be a little stale, you know? You never know when someone will need a good chuckle through the mail.

      • My son was 8 and still believed in Santa. That Christmas, Santa gave him a dictionary. After opening it, Jacob slammed it down and said “There is NO SANTA CLAUS. Santa would NEVER give me a dictionary.”

  14. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing!

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