Thank you notes matter. I know a lot of people disagree, but letting someone know you are grateful for them, their gift to you, and their effort to please you is never a wasted effort.
Tweens and teens are fabulously capable of writing thank you notes, but yet often reluctant to do so and it becomes an issue in the home. Expressing gratitude is a great way to fight the sense of entitlement that tweens can tend to have. Here are 5 tips to help eliminate fights and make thank you note writing easier.
1. Make it clear to your kids that you expect them to be written.
Let kids know this is a non-negotiable and their time spent arguing is a waste. When I was a kid, if my brother and I resisted writing thank you notes, we did not get to use/play/enjoy the item given until the note had been written. That sped up the process. You can explain to kids why thank you notes are important, that the thank you note not only let's someone know they are appreciated and it shows that the kids do not feel entitled. If a gift was shipped, it lets the sender know it was safely received.
2. Set a schedule.
Make a list of the notes to be written with both giver and item (this will make writing the notes easier) and then agree upon a certain number of notes to be written each day. Tweens are easily overwhelmed and if they think they have to do them all at once, they shut down. Two or three a day, though, is more manageable. Go crazy and make it a math problem. Pick a day by which all notes must be sent and then have them figure out how many notes per day are needed. Crossing off notes on the list as kids go so they can see progress.
3. Follow the 3 sentence rule.
It's not a thank you novel, it's a thank you note. A tome is not required, but rather the note should be short and sweet. (But more than the 1 sentence your tween would like to get away with.) The note should thank the giver for the gift, list one thing the recipients likes about the gift or how he/she plans to use it and this time of year it's easy to conclude with wishing the giver a very happy new year. Ooph offers up sample thank you note wording that follows the 3 sentence rule here. (Also, when your kid whines about having to write the notes and they have three to do that day, you can ask, "Is it really that hard to write 9 sentences?" Your child may not appreciate that, and you can phrase it more kindly, but it's a way to put the amount of effort required into perspective)
4. Add in some fun.
If your child is artistic, have them make their own note cards or even fancy up a note written on regular paper. Let them be creative. Once the three sentences are written, what's the harm in letting your bust out the glitter glue?Or allow your tween to select his/her own stationary. Let them listen to new songs received as gifts or purchased with gift cards if you want. And a plate of cookies and mug of hot chocolate never hurts.
5. Do it together.
Family writing time! If a parent sits down and writes thank you notes while the tween and teen is doing the same, it sends a powerful message. And you can enjoy the cookies and hot chocolate, too!
For ideas for younger kids, check out Social Butterfly Mom's "You're rude if you don't write thank-you notes"
If you are unsure about the power of thank you notes, check out the book "A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life" by John Kralik cemented my belief in the power of a short, handwritten expression of appreciation. It illustrates that there is a difference between saying "thank you" verbally and taking the time to put pen to paper. Less significant benefits include a chance to practice handwriting (those are getting harder find these days), understanding how to address an envelop (you'd be shocked at the number of tweens who have no idea how to do this), and something to do over Winter Break!
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