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Thank-You Notes

 

Q. Do kids today just not have an attitude of gratitude? I'm a small business owner, and gave what for me was a pretty sizeable donation to the local grade school for their fund-raising carnival. I didn't do it for PR; I'm just a strong supporter of education. But I never got any kind of a thank-you note. I was kind of expecting one from a student, or at the very least, a parent or a teacher associated with the school. It really left a bad taste in my mouth. Aren't schools demonstrating, and teaching, the social graces any more?

 

How disappointing! Teaching children to be grateful for the support of the greater community is a very important task of educators. Business etiquette comes down to simple lessons of kindness and "please" and "thank you" skills. These should be instilled at an early age so that they become strong habits. That requires leadership by both parents and educators.

 

Not only that, but the act of writing a thank-you note is good for a young person, to connect with somebody outside his or her school and family. So often, youth feel isolated from their communities, and that's bad. It's not that outlandish to suggest a link between a feeling of alienation in a young person, and negative outcomes - everything from depression to the crime of vandalism. Kids need to know there are people out there who care, and who are helping any way they can.

 

Forging relationships between community businesses, organizations and outside adults, and local school youth, is a great idea to prevent that negative emotion, that "nobody cares," that so often leads to academic underachievement and even property destruction by troubled juveniles.

 

Yes, good schools still instill an "attitude of gratitude" in their students, and insist on a prompt thank-you note in situations such as you describe. But in some schools, perhaps where there isn't a lot of parental involvement, or educators feel stressed by the many demands on their time, apparently that self-discipline of always responding with a gracious note after any special kindness or financial support is given has fallen by the wayside.

 

A prompt thank-you note is a must after anyone receives a gift, a meal, a donation, or a special favor. That's non-negotiable. Even if it's been a few weeks, it's never too late to send a thank-you. Here are some ideas to train a child to be a champion thank-you note writer, an important lifelong habit that will speak well of that child AND his or her parents and teachers:

 

n       Use real notecards, or the child can make his or her own. Draw colorful pictures, assemble a collage from magazine photos, make 3-D paper art . . . find a way to make the note special and thoughtful, like a gift.

 

n       Thank-you notes should be in the child's own handwriting, not typed. Use note-writing as an opportunity for practicing legible handwriting.

 

n       Use a black or blue ballpoint pen or a thin, easy-to-read marker, especially for an older person, who may have trouble reading pencil or colored ink.

 

n       It might help to write a rough draft first. There shouldn't be any cross-outs or blotches on a thank-you note.

 

n       The child should briefly describe what the gift was . . . not just say "the gift." That way the giver knows the child received what was sent.

 

n       The child should write at least one way he or she plans to use the gift, or already has. If it's money, tell what you plan to spend it on. So in your case, a child designated to write you a thank-you note might say that his favorite subject is science and he can't wait to use the new laboratory equipment that your donation will bring to the school. If it's a toy, the child can tell how he or she shared it with a friend. If it's something decorative, remark on how pretty it is. You get the drift: communicate how the gift was useful and delightful.

 

n       Teach children how to address an envelope, in three even lines with name; address, and city, state and zip code. Show your child where to place the stamp. Let your child put the note in the mailbox. Your child has given the gift of satisfaction and gratitude, and that's a gift that keeps on giving.

 

Homework: If your parent group doesn't have a "kindness coordinator" who makes sure volunteers and donors to your school are thanked, offer to take on the job for the school year. Keep in contact with the principal, school secretary, teacher representative, and other parent group officers to make sure you are sending out timely and thoughtful thank-you notes to all those who are helping the school. Have your own children and their classmates do the writing (and illustrating!) for an extra teaching opportunity.

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Discipline & Safety 04 2008

 

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