“Mom, Can We Do the Thank You Notes Now? Please!”
I thought I might have been hearing things. I could have sworn I heard Valerie's six year old son say, "Mom, can we do the thank you notes, now? Please!" I must have displayed a puzzled look on my face because my friend Valerie answered my question before I could even ask it. "You heard him correctly," she informed me. "He likes to do thank you notes."
A kid who likes to do thank you notes? This did not compute. It didn't fit with my experience. Up until this day I had never met a child who liked to write thank you notes. It didn't matter if they were four or fourteen. Getting the kids I had known to respond in writing to acknowledge the gifts they had received was like pulling teeth.
Valerie has two children. Her son is six and her daughter is thirteen. Both enjoy doing thank you notes. Since this phenomenon seemed so bazaar to me, I asked her to share her secrets for getting children to not only do thank you notes, but to enjoy the process as well. What follows is a compilation of my discussion with what I consider now to be the foremost world's authority on getting kids to write thank you notes.
Model the message. Write thank you notes yourself. Make sure your children see you do this. Say things like, "I'm going to write my thank you notes now. It's fun for me to let others know how much I appreciate their gifts." Never, ever let children hear you complain about having to share your appreciation in writing.
Send thank you notes to your own children. Pin them on their pillow, put them in their lunch box or send them in the mail. Do this even before they are old enough to read. When they ask you what it says, read it to them.
When thank you notes come in the mail from others, share them with you children. Say, "Look. I got a note from grandma. She says she likes the comforter I made for her and it keeps her warm at night. Oh, I'm so glad she took the time to share that."
Make thank you note writing for children quick and easy. To do this, you have to be prepared ahead of time. Preparation is the parent's job. Create a designated box of material for this special purpose. An inexpensive tackle box works well. Fill it with supplies so that when it is time to write, the time can be spent writing rather than looking for materials. Do not use this box for any other purposes.
Make it special. Get colorful paper for the young children and a variety of attractive notes for the older ones. Buy special pens, the kind with sparkly ink. Get a supply of stickers that are only used for thank you notes. Your goal here is to set this up so that the only way for kids to get their hands on these special stickers, pens, and paper is to do thank you notes.
Older children who enjoy the computer can do their notes on Microsoft Word. This makes it easy and special for them. If they are inclined, they can add they own creativity to the process this way. Also include models of appropriate notes for the older children. Having a model to follow makes the note writing easier, requires less time, and insures that the note will be meaningful and informative.
Start early. Beginning with a four year old is not too soon. Your job as the parent for a child this age is to take dictation. Their job as the child is to tell you what they want to say, add some stickers, and include personalized coloring if desired.
As the child gets older he can sign his name to the dictation. When he is ready to add art work and words of his own, he can move to that level. In time, your child will be doing the entire thank you note by herself.
Be consistent. Thank you notes need to be done for every birthday, holiday, or unexpected gift. There are no exceptions. The goal here is to create a habit. Children are more likely to resist writing thank you notes if sometimes they are required and other times they are not. Begin the routine with younger kids and keep it going on into adulthood.
Begin using the tips above this holiday season and add a new tradition to your celebrations. By implementing these ideas with love and affection, you may soon hear, "Mom, can we do the thank you notes now? Please!"
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They also publish a FREE email newsletter for parents. Subscribe to it at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.chickmoorman.com/ and http://www.thomashaller.com/, and http://www.10commitments.net/.