Should kids send thank you notes?

Every one is a thank you note for an xmas present.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is all about thank you notes… For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here.

Stuff all the worries Michael Gove gives us about synthetic phonics and THAT test when the poor little mites are six years old. I want to know if my children are being turned into 19th century dinosaurs by forcing them to write thank you letters for things I’d often wish they hadn’t had (that make up kit!) or hadn’t done (a sleepover which didn’t include any sleep). The reasoning dates back a long way…

About 10am one damp Christmas Eve (back in the ’70s) my Granny, by then in her early 60s, rang up my dad to say how disappointed she was with his family’s manners. After a brief chat it turned out that she’d posted our Christmas presents from the local Suffolk post office, but not one of his three children had sent a thank you letter yet!  It was hard to convince her that we hadn’t actually opened her presents.

Perhaps letter writing is a family obsession? My own mum recently wrote me a six-sided letter of which half was telling me off (unfairly I think, but there you go!). The point is that ever since my children were small I’ve encouraged them to send thank you notes for any gifts they are sent. When they were younger this was a picture or a scrawl – now it’s meant to be a letter that makes it on to the second side. But writing letters is a dying art. Lola,13, is a swift texter though. Often my requests are met by a nano-second reply that says “k”, obviously meaning OK I’ll do that. It saves us all a lot of worry, and time.

It’s for Mr Manners
I also try and insist my children send thank you notes if they do an overnight stay.  It’s not just that old habits die hard, but also because it seems like a good opportunity to get them writing at home on something other than SMS or Facebook. But it is rare that their city-living friends do the same – and no surprise in this crazy time-stressed world which would simply pile more pressure on their mums and dads.

Make it easy
Re-use is meant to be better than recycling, so our thank you letters are often on a well-enjoyed card. You can get post-card and xmas/birthday card self-adhesive (or just use a glue stick) sheets. I order envelope re-use labels from Friends of the Earth shop at £2.50 for 100, see here. Nell, 10, would rather draw an individual comic strip for everyone, but it takes so much time that I meanly discourage her. I do wonder though if the people getting notes from Lola and Nell on pre-used cards, in re-used envelopes do sometimes wonder if our family isn’t just eccentric, it’s also rather mean. I hope not.

Now, got to go. Guess what’s on my to do list? Yes, thank you notes.

Over to you
Do you get your children to send thank you notes for gifts and sleepovers? Do you think this is a bit outdated? Or a good habit to retain?

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11 Comments on “Should kids send thank you notes?”

  1. You just reminded me that we haven’t done our thank you notes yet! URGH…. LOL

    • homemadekids Says:

      Hi, and I feel guilty now seeing as your blog points out that your wicked little (but obviously cute) dog takes up a lot of your spare time! Good luck with those letters. Nicola

  2. Pete Denton Says:

    I don’t have kids but my nieces and nephew always send thank you notes. I think it is a nice touch to make them write them. It makes them think about things more and shows gratitude and thanks.

  3. nicola baird Says:

    From twitter:
    EmmaDixon_Green Emma Dixon
    @nicolabairduk of course they should!! Email phone and text not any substitute. Same goes for us adults. Handwriting is individual & unique.

  4. Karin Says:

    Our kids used to write thank you letters but now they consider saying thank you over the phone or in person sufficient for Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents.

    My nephew always writes a thank you note, too. On the other side of the family we did get thank you letters from our niece and nephew, but this year I’m not even sure our niece got her birthday present. They’re teenagers now.

  5. nicola baird Says:

    From Facebook:
    Kelly: “Ok, this is an interesting one. Firstly, no, when we receive your re-cycled notes in re-cycled envelopes we don’t think you’re mean, just lovely. But, you may have noticed you’ve never received a thank you note from my kids. This is for two reasons: a) as a thing to do, it often gets lost in the chaos of life, but also b) I have always felt, and still do, that thank you letters are an old English form of torture for children, and don’t really have anything to do with being thankful. A bit like saying ‘please may I get down, thank you for a lovely dinner’ actually means ‘I’m full and bored, so can I go now?’ which I’d rather hear, because filling them up was the point of the cooking, and an added ‘yum yum’ would be the icing on the cake. For me, with gifts, the best thanks is verbal, when you can see they mean it (or not!), or, better, seeing them with the gift, and enjoying it. AND, most importantly, gifts should be given, in my view, for the pleasure of giving, not for thanks, and I try hard to make sure my kids take genuine real pleasure in giving to learn that. Personally, I’d rather they did that then grumbled and moaned their way through a thank you letter.”

    Caroline: “It is great when children write thank you letters and always appreciated by the recipient. Not sure thank yous for sleep overs are necessary though?”

    Vicki “i am with Kelly but feel perennial guilty about it after xmas when all my dutiful nieces and nephews send them in.”

    • nicola baird Says:

      My facebook reply: Nicola Baird Astonishing number of comments to this post – which makes me think that I use letter writing as a schooling opportunity. And possibly that working from home means I’m around enough to be able to supervise my sometimes grumbly children. Viz didn’t base the modern parents on me that’s for sure! Thanks for your thoughts, N x

  6. nicola baird Says:

    Depends on the class system. Kids of the upper middle classes start sending thank you notes before the presents have arrived! The rest of us wait a week or two…

    • nicola baird Says:

      (I think the comment above about class is from Pete – it’s not from me anyway!).

      More from facebook
      Tim ” yes, they should. Its an expression of thanks, in a very personal way.”

      Sophy “Yes for presents, not necessary for sleepovers. This year my youngest said “I used to think it was really boring writing thank you letters but now I really enjoy it.” Worth persevering with …”

      Alice “It’s a yes to thank you notes in our house.”

  7. Karin Says:

    I think it depends how hard a child finds it to write, but it does show appreciation for the gift, and maybe some might think for the donor. If a child struggles to write they could use a computer, or maybe draw a picture with a short caption, perhaps by parent.

    Elderly relatives especially seem to appreciate thank you letters.

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