I have a confession. I’m not the one in our house leading the charge on thank you notes.
I’m married with two children so I’ve written my fair share of thank yous. I don’t mind writing a note of gratitude, but I admit that I am perpetually slow in getting this job done. Second confession: I’m actually really bad at sending packages and cards for other occasions on time too. I’ve even been known to forget entirely. I feel awful about it and I promise it’s something I’m really working on this year. Needless to say, when it comes to enforcing this task with our kids, my husband is the one who keeps us all accountable.
We may drag our heels a bit, but my husband is nothing if not persistent, so eventually it gets done. (If you’re reading this and thinking that you haven’t received a thank you card yet, don’t worry… it’s coming… someday… soon… ish.) The kids are admittedly a little less than enthusiastic about writing thank you notes, especially for gifts they’ve received in person. My daughter argues that she’s already thanked that person for the gift, but we still put the pen in her hand.
So why am I trying to instill a habit in my kids that I am not very good at myself?
- It’s important to show our gratitude to others. When someone invests their time and money in a gift, it’s worth at least a few minutes of our own time to show our appreciation. Have you ever sent a gift to someone and wondered if they ever received it because the gift was never mentioned?? It’s not a nice feeling. In our family, we try to send handwritten notes, but it can be just as nice to get a simple phone call or email. Even a text tells someone that they are important enough for you to take a minute out of your day to acknowledge them.
- Good manners are important. Sometimes it seems like there’s a growing perception that good manners are not a big deal. Have you ever made a point to hold the door for someone only to have them walk through without even a nod of thanks? WTH?!? That’s just plain rude. Sending a thank you note is not just about showing our appreciation, but also about extending courtesy to the gift-giver. It’s a simple gesture that says a lot. We expect our kids to use good manners, and while they may need frequent reminders, my hope is that someday they will be adults who believe that others should be treated politely.
- Life is full of necessary tasks you won’t always enjoy. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t have a chore that I’d rather not do. I like having a clean kitchen, but it’s not as if I look forward to the magical moment when it’s time to load the dishwasher. I’m reading a great book called Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12 Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma. It’s all about how as parents, we can inadvertently instill an unhealthy sense of entitlement in our kids and the author’s quest to fix this problem with her own children. In one chapter Wyma talks about a growing trend in which younger employees tend to leave a job as soon as it becomes less interesting or enjoyable. The reality is that all jobs have an unpleasant element no matter how much you love your work. I love being a mom, but cleaning up vomit is not exactly at the top of the list of reasons why… but I still have to do it. I don’t want my kids growing up with the illusion that they can bail as soon as they are forced to do a task they would rather not do. They know that sending thank yous is the right thing to do, but they wouldn’t choose to do that over playing with toys so it’s up to us to keep them on task.
The bottom line is that we want our kids to be aware of how extraordinarily blessed they are and to remember to be grateful for all that they have. Thanking others is just one small tangible way that we can help teach them how essential gratitude is to strong character.
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