August 17, 2011
Teaching kids to express “thanks” on paper is giving them an important life skill.
Writing a thank you note is rather magical, a la harry potter! Putting gratitude into writing actually magnifies the generosity. People won’t hesitate to offer future help to those who acknowledge past kindnesses. Thank you notes open doors and impress people, especially now in this high speed world of ours, where manners run thin and human interaction is too often remote and shallow. A very personal handwritten note stands out in the crowd. Let’s face it, it is downright classy and the height of good manners to take the time to write a thank you note!
The earlier we start training our children to this courtesy, the better. So, let’s make it fun!
Gauge your involvement according to your child’s age- offer more help to the younger ones and know when to back off with the teens.
Margaret Shepherd offers many practical suggestions. Start with:
A schedule: a specific time and place. Be creative. Make it festive. Gather all the necessary materials and addresses needed. Offer colorful stickers, markers, paper, glitter pens, rubber stamps and even your child’s favorite music. The day after a holiday or a birthday could be the start of a great tradition!
Create the environment: the kitchen or dining room table. Have all the materials set out. Provide companionship. Do some of your own writing at the same time, in your journal, a grocery list, or writing your own letters. That way you can be available for focus, moral support and clerical help. And you can model for your child how it is done. If she is very young, you may take dictation or write the letter for your child to copy. Encourage him to write as much of the note as possible in his/her own words and handwriting. Do what will build confidence. And be sure to have them sign or print their own name.
If writing by hand is rusty for you and your child, PRACTICE ahead by doodling, making lists, notes, etc. Encourage your child to write anything and everything, and you do the same. Work the kinks out. Remember the note is valuable because it is uniquely handwritten.
Children may need to be reminded of the gift and the original excitement and fun surrounding it. Explain to your child how people enjoy being thanked for a gift given.
If your child gives you something, it’s a “teachable moment.” Write her a thank you note. Show him firsthand what happiness a simple note of thanks can bring. Then your child will understand.
Offer a reward for a job well done, fun stickers, a new rubber stamp, or let your child choose.
Chances are your child’s handwritten thank you note will delight the Grandparent, Aunt, relative or friend who receives it. It might even make the “refrigerator gallery!”
Reference: Margaret Shepherd, The Art of the Handwritten Note. New York: Broadway Books, 2002