When I was a kid my parents were hard core. I was not allowed to play with any toys or cash any checks from Christmas or my birthday until I had written out thank you notes that my mother reviewed and deemed acceptable. I couldn’t get away with a half-hearted effort, either.
My penmanship had to be neat. Everything had to be spelled correctly. I had to say thank you at least twice. Finally, the letters all had to be written within one week of receiving the gifts. Mom didn’t want anyone to think that I was ungrateful, or forgot about them.
Now I’m a mom and my son is learning to write and guess what… he has to write thank you letters. I’m a little lenient since he hasn’t totally mastered writing yet and has a short attention span. I only make him write one or two letters in a sitting. But I make him write them. And I make sure they are legible.
This process drives us both crazy. The boy thinks that just because he said “thank you” when he received a gift it was good enough. All he wants to do is play.
As I get older I realize that I am old school. Not as hard core as my parents were, but definitely appreciative of the gestures they taught me. I actually really enjoy getting a handwritten letter in the mail. And let’s face it: getting a handwritten letter from a small child is as charming as it is adorable.
I am also realizing that teaching my son to write thank you letters is about far more than penmanship or manners or gratitude.
- He has to treat others with care and respect.
- The act of writing a thank you letter before he plays with a new toy is a reminder that people come before things.
- The number of letters he has to write shows him just how many people care about him – as well as how many people he cares about.
Writing thank you letters is a very basic exercise that shows him the world doesn’t revolve around him, and that’s a really great thing. Because when all is said and done he may not remember the gifts he got and he definitely won’t remember what he wrote in his thank you letters, but he absolutely will remember the people he wrote the letters to and how special they are.
That lesson is worth all of the effort it takes to get him to focus on the simple act of writing the letter.