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Why children should write thank you notes, cards and letters ... and how to get them to do it

Do your kids write thank you notes? If not or if writing them is a dreaded chore after every birthday and family celebration then read on for tips and ideas for getting those thank you letters written, and making life easier for everyone.
Think back to your childhood. Did your parents insist on you writing thank you notes? If so, how did you feel about it? The chances are you hated it with a passion. Perhaps you still shudder at the memory!

Fast forward to now you probably insist on your children writing thank you notes. Not because you're a sadist (or a masochist and let's face it, it can be a painful process all round!), but because as an adult you know that thank you notes are so important.

Let's take a look at why it is so important that you encourage and help your kids to write thank you notes, and ways in which you can make the whole process less painful and maybe even enjoyable for everyone involved!


Why should kids write thank you notes?

Many adults have unpleasant memories of being forced to write thank you notes as children. Yes, it's a chore, and one that can cause real friction between nagging parents and unwilling children. So why bother at all?

Well, the truth is that, with a few exceptions (close family, people who you see regularly), the lack of a thank you note has serious potential to cause problems. Not only will the givers of gifts tend to feel used, but there's the issue that they may not even know if their carefully picked out gift has arrived safely, never mind if it was appreciated. If your kids fail to send thank you cards, they may well find that the gifts stop arriving (or at least become smaller and less elaborate).

But there's more much more to thank you notes than self-interest. Writing thank you notes is not only good manners and the 'polite thing to do', but also an important life lesson in gratitude and thankfulness. Getting children to write thank you notes is a way of teaching them to think of others and express their appreciation. Surely something worth working on!


How to get kids to write thank you notes, cards or letters

OK, let's assume that you're in agreement that it is important that children write thank you notes. But what happens when as is all too likely your kids are reluctant, or even openly hostile to the idea?

Well, the first step is to explain to them why they need to write thank you notes. It's no good simply stating 'because you have to', or 'because it's polite'. Children need to know that, firstly, gifts must be acknowledged (otherwise how will the giver know whether it was ever been received?). And secondly that when someone has taken the time to pick out a gift and spend money on you, it deserves appreciation... and appreciation that is not expressed amounts to very little indeed.

Also, do you yourself write thank you notes for gifts and favors you receive? Lead by example! If your children see you writing your own notes, they are much more likely to agree to write theirs too.

So, explain to your kids that thank you cards are an obligation. But don't be too heavy-handed about it: remember that there's room for compromise in how this obligation is met. Manners experts may insist that thank you notes must be beautifully handwritten on note cards and sent in the post. However, I really don't believe that the process has to be this strict or formal, particularly in the case of children's thank you notes.

Putting pressure on children to do something that they really dislike and are perhaps unsuited to can quickly leech all the gratitude out of the process surely not an ideal result! Instead, get a little creative with the idea of what a thank you note can and should be: see our creative kids thank you note ideas for lots of help, suggestions and encouragement for children of all ages and abilities.

You never know your kids may even find that thank you notes are fun!

As a child I was made to write a thank you letter for each and every gift I received in the mail. As we lived far from grandparents, uncles and aunts etc., birthdays and Christmas inevitably meant a long list of thank yous to be sent. Being a dutiful (and rather literal) child I painstakingly wrote elaborate, newsy letters to each person on the list. It was a tortYous process and one which regularly stretched well into February and beyond.

I now realize that the time, energy and, frankly, misery expended on those letters was just not worth it. Something much simpler would have done just as well, if only my parents had given me a little more guidance and cut me a little slack. I was an artistic child, but it never occurred to me that I could send a picture with a few lines of thanks incorporated. Or that a photo of me with the gift might serve just as well. It's not that my parents were mean. Of course not! But they believed in 'doing things right' and lacked the imagination to do things 'right but different'. Now as an adult with children of my own, I do insist they produce thank you notes, but I do it differently.. I hope you will consider doing so too!

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