Thank you notes are one of the most underrated and underutilized person to person tools. When I do seminars and work with teens I not only mention the importance of thank you notes, but a few essential how-tos. Below
I listed 5 principles and ideas to teach your kids about gratitude, besides the obvious writing thank you’s after birthdays and holidays.
Please, print this and talk about it with your teens and tweens.
1) Non-Obvious Thank Yous
Of course kids should always hand write thank you notes after birthdays and holidays. Yet, I am huge fan of the non-obvious thank you notes. In my calendar I have a little reminder every 3 months to think about all of the people I am appreciative of and send them a personal note. Sometimes this is the gaurds at the gaurd gate where I live, sometimes it is my old bio teacher for teaching me something that I used recently.
2) Keep Thank You Track
I have a little sticky on my desktop called “Favors and Thank Yous” here I list people who I am grateful for or little things they have done for me so I do not forget how appreciative I am of them. I often will dedicated posts to them or send them a note or email and it helps to have it when I get my calendar reminder.
3) Thank You un-Notes
I do send thank you notes, handwritten and email. But, I have also had a lot of fun thinking of un-Notes. I dedicated posts to people who I am thankful for that remind me of them. I also occasionally will make a CD mix of music I think people will like or bake them something. I actually probably have more fun making these compilations then people have getting them!
4) Don’t Keep Track Track
I just want to clarify, I keep the sticky note above so I can remember to thank them, not to ‘pay them back’ or keep a list of tit for tat. I have a very positive outlook on people and believe they typically do things simply to be nice and not because they need something in return. So, keep this in mind when keeping track…don’t keep track for the wrong reasons.
5) Don’t Feel Guilty
Part of being gracious is also feeling deserving of the help. The person who gifted you wants you to enjoy the help/service/gift not feel guilty for it. Write a heartfely thank you, but the best way to thank someone is to enjoy what they have given you.
6) Don’t Skip the Obvious
A family member who will remain nameless recently received a gift from me. It was my pleasure to give it to her and so enjoyed seeing her use it. After a few weeks went by I was a little upset that I received no thank you call, no thank you card, no thank you email. I brought it up with her to clear the air and she said, “oh my gosh, I thought because you are family I didn’t really have to.” I think many people forget to thank the obvious people. I try to thank my parents every once in a while for being supportive and letting me write about them on my blog. Think of the people who most obviously support you in non-material ways…they should get a thank you too!
7) Make It Personal
One time I used a form letter to write my thank you notes on the computer. Well, my 7 year-old self spelled thank you “tank you” in all of them! My grandma sent them all back with a red correction on them. I learned then to make them personal. People notice when you use broad oversweeping generalizations, if you have to make it shorter and real to them
I think gratitude is one of the hardest things to instill in youth. I used to hate writing thank you notes, but every birthday and holiday with gifts my mom would sit me down and make me write them. Now, I am so thankful (thank you mom!) to her for making me get in the habit. I encourage parents to do the same no matter how young! We also wrote: 10 Ways to Make Teens More Grateful.
This post is dedicated to Leo Laporte. I am very grateful to you for giving me my first Twitter boost and making your fabulous daughter so I could be on her show!