Thank You – Put It In Writing

The thrill of an approaching holiday and the high of getting gifts (including money) torpedo to the ground when the next day dawns.  My kids wake up, excited to check out their new toys and count their money, but a sense of impending doom forms inside them.  They can try to ignore it, but they can’t stop it.  They beg, plead and bargain, but this mom can’t be swayed.

They will write thank you letters.

Dropping a few pencil-smudged lines

And I’m going to hold their stuff until the letters are done.  Some might call this blackmail, but I call it encouraging them to do the right thing.  My kids just call it “mean.”

They often procrastinate for several days before they can’t take my nagging gentle reminders any longer.  You would think I asked them to pen the next great American novel.  My older son writes about 4 to 5 sentences per card.  This takes about as long as getting my younger son to write an “s” that isn’t backwards.

This year, it took about an hour for the kids to write the letters and get their Christmas goodies back.  They don’t know, and likely don’t care, but I have reasons for torturing asking them to write ‘thank you’ letters:

  1. It shows good manners (so maybe the recipient will forget my son asked them if they were alive when the Declaration of Independence was signed.)
  2. It helps them improve written communication skills (that will inevitably be undone when they learn to text…I can see it now:  “10Q 4 the gift. TTYL.”)
  3. It is good for them to reflect on the gifts they received and to be grateful (because their haul is held hostage until those lovely heart-felt letters are written.)
  4. I bought 100 Forever Stamps at Costco (but it doesn’t mean I want to keep them forever.)
  5. Mailing ‘thank you’ letters boosts the economy by providing jobs for postal workers (this will be even more important if those bogus credit card offers and Value Pak coupons stop coming.)
  6. My parents made me do it when I was a kid (You got me.  This is the real reason for carrying on the tradition.)

What are your thoughts?  Are thank you letters outdated, or fun to get?  Did you write them as a child?  Do you write them now?


32 thoughts on “Thank You – Put It In Writing

  1. nrhatch January 12, 2012 / 9:15 PM

    You rock! 😀

    Acknowledging kindness with a note of thanks is good manners . . . and good karma. 😉

    • jannatwrites January 12, 2012 / 10:23 PM

      Thanks, Nancy! We have a relative who takes pictures of the birthday kid with each party attendee. When ‘thank you’s’ go out, she includes the picutre of that person with her child. I’m definitely not that organized. I’d NEVER get anything out the door!

  2. C.B. Wentworth January 12, 2012 / 9:34 PM

    I love it that you’re keeping the tradition alive!

    I still write thank you letters for any gift I receive. If someone cared enough to send me a thoughtful gift, I most certainly have the time to personally thank them with a handwritten letter. 🙂

    • jannatwrites January 12, 2012 / 10:27 PM

      Glad to hear it, C.B.! I think the thank you letter is a dying art, but we’re doing our part to sustain it 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your comment!

  3. pattisj January 12, 2012 / 9:57 PM

    I wrote them as a child, and I write them now…unless I can email or Facebook…it depends on the giver. And I appreciate your efforts in having your sons write them. When sending long distance gifts, it’s nice to know they were received and, hopefully, appreciated. If they don’t care enough to let me know, next year, I might not care enough to send a gift. (Can you tell there might be some in our family who don’t practice this?)

  4. jannatwrites January 12, 2012 / 10:31 PM

    I realized years ago that thank you letters do matter, Patti. I always wrote them for the kids when they were younger. One year, I noticed we didn’t receive a card from one of my husband’s aunts. I figured they forgot or were short on cash, so I didn’t think much about it. Several months later, she asked me if I got their card. When I told her I hadn’t, she said, “I wondered, because you always send out thank you notes.”

    When I want to get lazy and not enforce the writing rule, I remember that 🙂

    It can be irritaing when there is no acknowledgement of a gift. Even a phone call, at the very least!

  5. pattyabr January 12, 2012 / 11:00 PM

    Actually my parents were not very good at teaching us about thank you cards. My brother’s wife is great at sending thank yous and taught her kids manners. But, my brother can’t figure out how to send a thank you. I had to email him to verify that he got a birthday gift two months ago.

    I was pleased when my son sent out all his thank you notes after his college graduation. I think thank you’s are something you have to continually teach your children how to accomplish. I advised my daughter to send a formal thank you letter for a college shadowing experience. Teaching this skill is teaching your children skills for a lifetime and to become adults.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 7:01 PM

      I’m so encouraged by these comments that the art of writing thank you’s isn’t on life support. I’m glad your children have taken your advice on wrting thank you’s. It’s hard because once they reach adulthood, you can’t ‘make’ them do much of anything 🙂

      I’ve had experiences similar to what you describe with your brother. Very frustrating, indeed.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Patty!

  6. Widdershins January 13, 2012 / 2:51 AM

    … and if you had to do it, they have to do it … and then they can punish… erm … I mean teach their kids as well

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 7:02 PM

      Exactly, Widdershins…this is how traditions are passed along, right? 😉

  7. Yvonne Root January 13, 2012 / 7:22 AM

    I did it when Mom, you know, “suggested” I should. And, she always did. I do it now and enjoy the process. Our daughter writes thank you notes and her children do also.

    I think that even if they are hand written, generic notes – “Thank you for the gift,” are lazy. Mom taught us that even if you receive cash part of the thank you is to let the sender know what you plan to do with the money.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 7:04 PM

      I agree with your coment on the contents of the thank you, Yvonne. The kids have to mention the gift specifically, and as you said, if it’s money, they should give some idea as to their plans on how they will spend it.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  8. Tori Nelson January 13, 2012 / 8:47 AM

    A big YAY for teaching the younger crowd a thing or two about etiquette! I think it is great to show your kids that- while a lot of people forget to take the time these days- expressing gratitude for the kindness you receive is essential 🙂

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 7:05 PM

      Sometimes they grumble, Tori, but I remind them that adults like to get stuff in the mail that isn’t a bill. When they were younger, I wrote the thank you and they added hand-drawn pictures. Now I get to step back a little and relax 🙂

  9. Carl D'Agostino January 13, 2012 / 9:08 AM

    Mother made me write the cards too. But as an only child and moved far away at just 5 and cut off from the dearly missed extended family it was not a chore. It was a way of touching. All the $2 and $5 added up to $800 by the time I was 11 but mother paid part of the hospital bills with it when father was injured and almost died. He’s 88 now. I see the money was a wise investment with dividends comparable to none.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:05 PM

      Wow, quite a life there, Carl. I’m glad your father survived and your saved money was able to help the family. It is a good way to keep relationships when families are scattered.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your story!

  10. momsomniac January 13, 2012 / 10:21 AM

    I have the kids write or draw pictures. The thank you cards often go out late (>2 weeks from event) but they go. I was required to write them when I was growing up, but I liked doing it. Seriously.

    Here’s the thing that stays with me:
    As an adult, I once received a hand-made hat from an aunt of my step-mom’s as a Christmas gift. I had never met this aunt, so I called my step-mom, got the address, & wrote the aunt a thank you note. She wrote me back. Our correspondence lastest for several years (until she died). People in her family were alwyas surprised I had never met her because (apparently) she often spoke of me. Here’s the thing – I enjoyed our letters and had *no* idea she that was home-bound, in a wheel-chair, with serious health issues…and aging. A thank you note started a correspondence that enriched me…and,a s I later heard, often was a highlight of her day.

    These things can be more meaningful than we might think. : )

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:08 PM

      Your story gave me goosebumps, Momsomniac. It’s so neat that you were able to strike up a relationship from a thank you note. The relationship obviously meant something to the woman.

      Thank you for sharing this sweet story. It’s a good reminder that simple actions can do so much.

  11. suzicate January 13, 2012 / 11:15 AM

    You are a wonderful mom. Your children will grow up to be grateful and responsible.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:11 PM

      I hope so, SuziCate. I don’t think I’m a wonderful mom, but I do hope the things I do right outweigh all the ways I mess up each day 🙂

  12. Connor @ January 13, 2012 / 12:58 PM

    My mom used to do just exactly this. Until one year when I painstakingly wrote out all the thank you notes and gave them to her. . . Only to find them forgotten in a large pile of papers several months later.

    Being of the preteenage persuasion I waited to remind her about them until she asked me to write thank you notes for my birthday presents . . . I asked why I couldn’t call them, instead, and she told me that was less personal; because it was simple, fast, and easy, it just didn’t show that I really cared. At which point I asked her if people had liked the ones I wrote for Xmas. . . And that’s the story of how I started making thank you calls.

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:15 PM

      Well, aren’t you a little stinker, Connor 🙂

      Parents do get busy, you know. Sometimes we even think about things enough that we fool ourselves into believing we actually did them. At any rate, my kids are on the hook for writing letters this year, because I took those cards to the post office the very next day 😉

  13. Debbie January 13, 2012 / 1:19 PM

    My mom “made” us kids write them, and it’s something I’ve kept up all these years. I just feel it shows “good breeding” to acknowledge a gift presented with a hand-written note. Now that I’m the mom, I make Domer write them, too. When he was little, I wrote out the note for him and had him copy it in his own hand. Now, he complains a bit but he writes them all by himself. Good for you, Janna! Keep sticking to your guns and withholding the loot — eventually, they’ll tire of their stubbornness and write. What outstanding life-lessons you’re imparting there, my friend!

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:19 PM

      Thanks for the support, Debbie! The kids grumble more at the idea of writing them…once they get going, they realize it’s a small price to pay for the gift. I think my older son actually had fun. My younger son got away with writing a single sentence, and then drawing a picture. He’s in Kindergarten, so writing a legible sentence actually takes quite a bit of time!

      I’m glad you’re son keeps up the writing. It sounds like you’ve raised a fine young man 🙂

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:20 PM

      You’re right, Phil. I’ve seen some scary writing skills (or lack of, I should say) in the business world.

  14. J. P. Cabit January 16, 2012 / 5:24 AM

    Ha ha ha! Your posts are so humorous, Janna. Keep it up. 🙂

    I was made to write “10Q” notes as a child. It drove me crazy. I don’t like to be forced into things…least of all forced into pretending to be “sentimental,” if you know what I mean. I don’t know if I would force my children into writing these, but I’d give you five stars for sticking to your guns about it. 😀

    • jannatwrites January 16, 2012 / 10:23 PM

      Thanks, Seph! Glad you found it entertaining.

      I can totally relate to the mindset of have to vs. want to. However, if I made it an option, I know it wouldn’t get done. They get to make plenty of choices, so this one is mine 🙂

      • J. P. Cabit January 17, 2012 / 3:18 AM

        “They get to make plenty of choices, so this one is mine.” Love it!!! 😆

        • jannatwrites January 17, 2012 / 10:35 PM

          Glad you do, because they don’t dig it so much!

  15. mairzeebp January 19, 2012 / 4:55 AM

    I have always loved getting a thank you note. So few people do them anymore that they feel special and it’s nice to know that people are grateful and acknowledge your kindness. And hey, if you need to hold their loot hostage for them to write them well that suits me just fine :).

    • jannatwrites January 19, 2012 / 7:52 PM

      Maybe one day they will write them without me hanging onto their stuff. No? Well a gal can dream!

      I like getting thank you notes, too. It’s fun to get something that’s not a bill or junk mail.

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