The Art of Learning to Say Thank You

We celebrated by daughter’s eighth birthday this weekend, which means it’s now time for thank you notes. Thank you notes are important to me. I don’t care if it is a long note or a quick scribble by a child, it’s the personal acknowledgment that time and generally money were spent to do something nice for the recipient. I developed a good  – some may say neurotic – routine as a child, writing the notes as soon as possible, which usually meant I was dashing off thankful, but not very prosaic notes the day after Christmas to get it over with. I knew I did not want to be like one of my cousins whom, to this day, is so notoriously bad about thanking gift givers that my elderly relatives grumble about her.

My kids are young, but they are starting to get the drill. My daughter writes “Dear (so and so), Thank you for the toy (or whatever)” and she signs off for both her and her brother. Then the note is passed over to my son, who scribbles in Crayon around – and sometimes on – the words. Despite having a big family, it really doesn’t take long. The point is to show that the gift giving was appreciated and this could be why I was so put off by a thank you note we received after Christmas.

Several weeks after Christmas, a thank you note arrived that was a store printed picture card that said “Thank you from Pebbles and Bam Bam [obviously not their real names] 2009.” One child is looking at the camera, the other looks completely bershon.

What? If these were little kids, it would be one thing, but both are well into elementary school and can write on their own. In fact, writing isn’t even important to me, the thank you note could be a drawing, I don’t care. But in this case, it doesn’t even look like the children had any hand in the note. Is it their form response, akin to auto-generated email replies?

After some thought, I think what bothered me the most is that without asking, I know the reason behind the form thank you note is “we’re busy” (there was not a unique circumstance behind the card), but everyone is busy. Everyone with kids is busy juggling school, work, activities and the myriad other demands that come with having a family. I must be channeling my elderly relatives or Martha Stewart when I say, “You weren’t too busy to accept the gift.”

We’ve all experienced watching some mom bending down in front of her child saying, “Now say thank you. Say thank you. SAY THANK YOU!” Maybe we’ve even been that mom. Notes don’t have to be that hard. Go to the store, buy some inexpensive note cards, have your kid write “thank you,” and it is done. Or open up your email and have your child type thank you. Done. Easy. No guilt. Much like math and soccer, gratitude is taught, and saying thank you is easier than most homework.

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  1. November 8, 2010
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