School-aged Kids: Writing Thank You Notes

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Getting a 10-year-old to write thank you notes for Christmas presents

Jan 2000

Does anyone know how to get a ten-year-old boy to write thank-you notes for his Christmas presents? It's always been difficult, but now it's impossible; things got really ugly the other day when we tried, and still nothing got written. Any tactics that have ever worked for anyone are welcome.

Thank you notes: I assume the question is asked in relation to Christmas gifts. Here is what we do in our family. On the day after Christmas I bring to the table a Thank You card for every person outside of the family who sent any one in my family a gift. Then we work together passing the cards around the table. somehow, because it's a group effort the job seems less onerous. Then it is my job to address and stamp and mail the cards out. I am ashamed to admit, here it is January 8 and the cards are sitting on my desk--written but not mailed. However, it is only shame for me, not my children who, I am pleased to say did their part without too much complaining. I feel very strong about Thank you letters. I have several relatives who never even acknowledged that gifts we have sent have arrived. It makes me go crazy. On the other hand , I have never felt compelled to make my children to send thank you letters for gifts received at a birthday parties when the giver was present as the gift was unwrapped. That situation requires a different skill--the gracious spoken thank you in the face of possible disappointment. We work on that before the guests arrive. good luck. One of the virtues of the round-robin method of thank yous is that each person need only add a sentence or two to the group card. Thank you for BLANK, I love it Because...

I have 2 teenage sons. They don't have to write notes for every birthday and Christmas gift but they do have to thank their grandmothers and selected other family friends and relatives.

Here is what I have been doing for a few years and it works pretty well once they get used to it:

- they don't get to use the money or gift until they write a thank-you note.
- they have to write it as soon as it's opened so nobody forgets
- I try to keep a choice of nice looking cards on hand for them to pick from
- I give them a template to use and help them think of what to write for each of the 3 items.

Here is the template:

Dear _____,
1st sentence: Thank you for the _______.
2nd sentence: They should say what they are going to do with the gift (if money, spend it on what? or save it for a ??? if it's something they don't really like, this is a good time to teach them about Little White Lies - The bunny pajamas are really cute and I will enjoy wearing them to the next sleepover)
3rd sentence: Sociable chit-chat such as Hope to see you this summer. or It was nice seeing you over the holidays
your grandson Joe

This template actually works pretty well for thank-you notes we have to write, too. And by the way, getting them to do it is a lot easier if they see YOU writing thank-you notes sometimes.

Another cute idea I haven't tried is to take a photo of them wearing the gift, and holding a sign that says Thanks Gramma Then they don't have to write anything - just send the photo.

My mother/grandmother always threatened simply never to send gifts for the next occasion if the notes were not written. This requires the cooperation of the gift-giver, but it's usually very effective. When the next occasion comes around, and the gift doesn't appear, you explain that since you never said whether or not you liked the last one, I didn't think you needed anything or ...didn't know what to get, so I didn't get anything.. I never needed to have it actually happen, but my step-daughter missed a present or two from my mom before she got with the program. She now sends her thankyou's by e-mail. Maybe that would be more tolerable? What about sending a Blue Mountain card or some such, with a note in the space where you can personalize it? Maybe the novelty of sending a thankyou via the web would help.

I have a 16 y/o daughter. I insist that T.Y.'s are done for just about everything. Same old story, no(none) activities of any kind until they are done. Thank you's are a wonderful habit to be in. Your son won't appreciate your efforts until he is an adult, so dont expect a smile. Good luck, be tough, I know you can do it.

My hunch is that the following suggestion only applies to those kids who are mature enough to know about the nature of saying thanks and old enough to write a personal note: Faced with the same situation, a wise girlfriend (whose kids are older than mine) said that when a significant gift arrives, she acts as the custodian of the gift - she holds onto it for a specified amount of time, during which the recipient needs to send an acknowledgement. If the time expires, she (the mom) is free to give the gift to, say, a shelter. She lets her kid know that if the gift is not worthy of a thank you, then it must not be all that important and should go to someone who will value it more. I know it may sound a bit tough, but it has really motivated her nine-year-old son to take the act of writing thank-yous seriously. Just an idea.

We have the thank you notes at the ready when the presents are being opened. It helps slow down the pace of ripping through Xmas or birthday presents, and it gets the writing done right away. The child opens a present, writes Dear Grandpa, thank you for the woolen socks. I didn't have pink and purple ones before. Love, Elmer. And it's done.

After the fact, you can bring the cards to the breakfast table and have him write one or two before breakfast or before dinner. If he's refusing, I suppose I'd start talking about putting away favorite toys, Nintendo, whatever, to point out that if you use things, then you are grateful for them.

My technique has been (and I impose it on myself, too) that nothing gets worn, read, spent or played with until the thank-you note is written. This method can also lead to unpleasantness, but at least there is a real incentive to write the notes, which I also think is important. If there is an unappreciated gift (such as the ever-dreaded clothes)which does not provide the appropriate incentive, I link usage of a desired gift to a thank you note for the other item, too. First off, we also work on a template for the notes, so that each one does not require a lot of thought after the template has been created. Because the kid need not write notes to his parents, for example, he will have some presents immediately and will only have to earn the rest with the thank you notes. This way it's not too cruel.

My brother was always dreadful at writing his thank you notes, and my mom used to tell my grandparents and greataunts, etc., not to send him gifts (or to send smaller amounts of money than other grandchildren got) if he had not written notes for earlier gifts. Worked like a charm.

Since it sounds like your son already has possession of the stuff, I guess I'd find another carrot to use to get the notes written - TV privileges, a new book, computer time. Good luck. I know it's a real pain, but the thank you notes mean a lot to a lot of gift givers.

I have a 12 year old boy and an 8-year-old boy who both write thank you notes quickly and without complaint ever since we instituted a policy that they cannot play with any gifts or spend gift money/gift certificates until ALL thank you notes are written.