Reader question: Are Kids' Thank You Notes Necessary?
I'm hoping you can settle a dispute between my wife and I. After any major gift-giving occasion -- birthdays or Christmas are the obvious ones -- or even minor ones, I think our 4-year-old should sit down and write thank you notes. Let me be clear -- I'm not looking for anything substantial as she can only write her name. I propose that either my wife or I write out he cards (either what my child says or just a simple note of gratitude) and my little one adds her "signature" at the bottom. My wife thinks that not only are thank you notes not necessary and that a phone call is more than enough, but that even if sending them were something she felt we needed to do, certainly a four-year-old child wouldn't be expected to take on such a task.
I think my wife is being unreasonable, she feels the same of me. I'd love your take on this.
--Are Manners a Lost Art?
Amanda Rock, Guide to Parenting Preschoolers responds: I'm trying to think of a scenario where saying "thank you" to someone, even in note form, would be unwelcome. While I don't know Emily Post personally, I suspect she would agree. Saying "thank you" is a habit -- a good habit -- to get into and the younger you start this positive behavior, the more likely it is that your child will continue to incorporate it in to her life as she gets older. And while I agree with that your that no one is waiting around for your young child to mail out elaborate cards with her name embossed across the top and a long, elaborate essay complete with bullet points on what she liked best about the present, a sweet, simple note mailed to whomever it was that gave your child a gift will be a pleasant surprise. Here are ways to encourage your little one to say thank you:
Draw a picture. Have your child draw a picture as a way to say thank you. It can be of anything, but if you could encourage her to create one of her playing with the gift, or with the gift-giver or just herself, that would be lovely. Explain why she is drawing this particular piece of artwork and encourage her to take her time and be as neat as she can. When she's finished, mail the picture right away or be sure to hand-deliver it to the designated recipient as soon as you can.
Take a picture. If you plan ahead of time, remember to take a photo of your little one opening the gift or at the very least, have your little one pose with the present in the box. Barring that, snap a shot of your preschooler playing with, using or wearing the present. Write a brief note on back of the photo and have your little one write her hame on the back or, if she can't do that just yet, have her color a bit. Again, drop it in the mail as soon as you can, and be sure to explain to your child what the purpose of the picture is.
Mail a vocal greeting. Greeting cards have come a long way. Today you can find cards with elaborate gallery-worthy art, hilarious greetings and even ones that you can record your voice in. For a special gift (these cards can be a little pricey) consider buying one and having your preschooler record a special greeting for the gift-giver. You may have to practice a few times before she gets it right. As a bonus, the next time your preschooler visits the person she sent the card to, she'll be able to see hear her card in action.
Write a card. Some older preschoolers are able to write their own simple note with the assistance of a grown up. Help your preschooler figure out what it is she'd like to say and then help her to write it out on paper. Try to keep the message short so your child doesn't get tired or distracted. As an alternative, you write out the majority of the message, letting your preschooler fill in key details like what the gift was, her favorite part of the present and her name. You can also buy pre-printed cards like this (compare prices) online or in stores.
No matter how your preschooler says "thank you," it's important that she does and she understands why.