It is a pet peeve of mine. Parents should not wait for teachers to give their children basic lessons. Reading and writing are skills that are life tools. Likewise, mothers and fathers should be the ones providing instructions on mannerly behavior. It is insane to think this responsibility belongs anywhere else.
An appreciation for the written word can start early. I am particularly proud of my own daughter, as we await the birth of her second child. She began to read to my grandson on the day he came home from the hospital. She has a nightly routine. At nearly two and a half, Mason looks forward to story time. He has already discovered a world that uses his imagination. He was introduced to it in a way that made it seem like fun.
Communication is an essential element of our existence. Gratitude is another. Most parents know the benefits of a simple thank you. However, even a basic letter of appreciation has become a lost art. When should this begin?
A friend tells the tale of a wedding she attended five years ago. The couple never bothered to send a note of acknowledgement. She knows the gift was received, because her check was cashed. Why no thank you card? Conversely, I attended a baby shower for a first time mother, less than three weeks ago. Yesterday, I was surprised with a rather nicely expressed handwritten note from the expectant mother. (The card it was written in was particularly adorable. It was a beautiful picture of both parents, likely taken on the day of the shower.) The words were simple. They gave the details of my gift and how it would be put to good use. I was also thanked for sharing in their joy. The note itself was heartfelt and made me feel appreciated.
So, when should children start writing their own notes of gratitude? In my mind, this should start before they can even sign their names. Mothers and fathers should teach their offspring the importance of acknowledging gifts. Find time. If you allowed your child to accept a present, they need to know the value in being thankful. Sometimes, a phone call is enough. However, in many instances, a handwritten note is most appropriate. This is particularly the case when the gift is not received in person.
You can comb the internet for samples of thank you notes, but I will provide you with some basic ideas as follows:
1. Get the note out on a timely basis. This generally means within a month of the gift. However, no one is surprised when it takes a while for a married couple to send out their thank you cards. They are likely waiting for the photograph to provide them with the perfect picture to adorn their notes.
2. Young children should not find the project to be overwhelming or a gruesome task. Arm them with crayons, markers and stickers. Their note of gratitude can be a gift itself. It will likely find its way on the refrigerator display.
3. Start basic and simple. Acknowledge the gift. If it is a gift card, explain how it will be applied. If it is cash, and the intention is to bank it, mention that in your note. “Saving the money for college or a shiny bike or a rainy day” are all appropriate phrases to invoke in this type of communication.
4. Of course, there will be times when a child may not exactly appreciate a gift. It may be that they have received a duplicative present. Or, it might be that the recipient bought them clothes, and they have not yet developed fashion sense. Nevertheless, kindness starts at home. It is still important for the thought to be acknowledged. It is the rare instance when a little fib is considered good behavior.
There will come a time that the child no longer needs assistance in showing appreciation. Parents should strongly encourage their offspring to continue to write thank you cards. Present them with attractive stationery and stamps to further the process. Etiquette should be an ongoing behavior.