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Ask the Thank You Diva:
Encouraging a Child to Continue to Write Thank You Notes

Cynthia asks the Thank You Diva's advice on how to encourage her daughter to continue writing thank you notes, despite the fact that she rarely receives any herself from the adults in her life.


Dear Thank You Diva,

I have brought my children up to always write thank you notes for their birthday and Christmas presents. Nothing too elaborate, but an acknowledgement and a thank you. It's good manners, and so I make it non-negotiable, and they know this and accept it. This year, however, my oldest daughter is saying that she doesn't see why she should write thank you notes when the grown-ups to whom she sends presents (cousins, aunties and uncles, god parents) almost never bother to send thank you notes to her.

Well, I'm at a bit of a loss here, because I have to say, she has a point!

I firmly believe that thank you notes are important (and let me say here that I always write thank you notes to my friends and to my nieces and nephews whenever I receive a gift, and my children see me doing this). How can I explain to my daughter that sometimes it's important to uphold standards, even if others have let them slip? She's 12 years old.

I would appreciate any advice you can give.


The Thank You Diva responds:

Dear Cynthia,

Thank you for bringing this up - it is an issue that I have recently been thinking about myself.

In the children's book Horrid Henry's Thank You Letter, Henry bemoans that adults can write their thank you notes whenever they feel like it, "or even not do it at all." And the problem is that very many adults do indeed not do it at all. Children have a particularly keen sense of fairness and they are - quite justifiably - unhappy when they feel that adults are getting away with not writing notes.

It's a tricky situation, and there is, of course, no way of forcing the adults in your daughter's life to send her thank you notes! Here, however, are three ideas for small things that you can do to try to improve the situation.

The first is to have a quiet word with the adults involved. This will depend on your relationship with them, of course - the lack of a thank you note is certainly not something over which it is worth creating bad feeling and upset. But for many busy adults who are not accustomed to writing thank you notes, it's quite possible that the idea of sending a thank you note to your daughter for her gift has simply not occurred.

The second idea is for your daughter to slip a little request for a note, or at least an acknowledgement, into a card or note sent with any gift she sends. This shouldn't be heavy handed (it wouldn't be polite to actually ask for a thank you note!), however a gentle hint might do the trick - something along the lines of:

Please let me know that you have received this parcel safely.


I would love to hear how you like the scarf.


Please write back to me when you have time. I love to get mail!

If neither of these approaches yields any result then you might consider making the whole thank you letter issue into a light hearted 'covert operation'. Mission: to encourage friends and relatives to write thank you notes!

Call it 'Operation Thank You Note' and set yourself the task of winning over hearts and minds to your worthy cause. As a family, send as many thank you notes as you can, and keep a tally of any thank you notes received (you might like to look at John Kralik's book A Simple Act of Gratitude for inspiration). Build on this year on year, and remember to tell those who DO send your daughter a thank you note how happy she is to receive it.

The hope is that by creating a game around thank you notes, and making it into a fun family mission, your daughter will find the inspiration to carry on doing the right thing - expressing her gratitude and writing her thank you notes - whether or not reciprocal notes are forthcoming.

With my best wishes,
The Thank You Diva

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