goodManners: Noting your thanks

The holiday season is upon us and that makes it a great time for children to learn the importance of verbally saying thank you, and writing thank you notes.

Children are usually overjoyed to receive presents. However, sometimes young children don’t understand that receiving a gift is more than simply an acquisition, but rather an act of kindness to which gratitude needs to be extended. Teaching children this lesson can be challenging.

Understanding the reason why an expression of thanks is necessary may be difficult when a child receives a gift he / she doesn’t like, already has, etc. In this situation, it is especially important to remind your child that a “thank you” recognizes the time, effort and caring thoughts of the gift giver.

A thank you note is generally brief and should state gratitude and some excitement for the gift received.  Thank you notes should be given when a gift is opened while the gift giver is not present, gifts in recognition of special occasions, or for thoughtful acts of kindness. Routine events or play dates usually don’t require a note; instead a verbal thank you is fine. When in doubt, a thank note is almost always welcome.

The following thank you tips may be helpful.

Be a good example – Make sure your child witnesses you writing a timely thank you for any gifts received.

Make writing thank you notes fun – Stationary does not have to be fancy and / or expensive. A homemade card is often more fun for the child and truly appreciated by the gift giver. Keep card making and writing material within easy reach – construction paper, markers, pens, stickers.

Involve your child in the thank you note process – If your child needs assistance, try to provide age appropriate help. A young child under the age of 5 should be able to decorate a card and dictate to an adult why he or she appreciates the gift. Children who are over 6 years old may be able to write the thank you note by themselves, or with a little assistance.

Praise your child for completing a thank you note – Remind your child why he / she is writing a thank you note and how good their note will make the gift giver feel. Hold your ground even if your child is less than enthused to write a thank you note. Your child will appreciate your effort later in life.

A verbal and hand-written thank you is an essential social grace for children to learn. If taught at an early age remembering to thank people will hopefully become second nature for your child, and a life long habit.