The Art of Writing Thank You Notes

Photo by Amy Gizienski

When I was a child, my mother stressed the importance of writing thank you notes. If someone was thoughtful enough to spend their money and time thinking about you, shopping for or making a gift, she explained, the least the recipient could do was take a minute and write a thank you note. I took that message to heart, and now long after my mother is gone and I have four children of my own, I am passing on the art of writing thank you notes.

It seems to be a dying art. Many would say that is due to the increase in technology. We have so many forms of communication available that actually writing a thank you is unnecessary.  I don’t think that is the real reason for the few thank you notes written in this day and age, though.

As a society, we’ve lost some of our mindfulness. No longer do we focus on the thought behind the gift, whether it’s physical or of a service nature. There seems to be an underlying attitude that people are entitled to gifts, which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, a quickly murmured “Thank you” at a party is considered sufficient.

However, there is more that goes into gift giving than handing over some requisite merchandise. That is true for me, at least. I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what gift I should give and then search out the gift, spend time making it myself, or put a lot of effort into doing something for someone. While I do not feel entitled to a Thank You note, they are greatly appreciated.

The topic of forced “thank yous” came up with our local parenting group a few years ago. I am on the side against forced “thank yous.” I see no need to teach my children manners by being rude. Modeling manners has worked quite well for us. as our children have begun signing and then speaking “thank you,” it has been genuine and heartfelt. I think this also plays into society’s lack of writing thank you notes. If a thank you is just an obligatory reaction to an obligatory gift, there isn’t any need to continue with the obligations. However, if a thank you is a heartfelt expression of gratitude for the thought someone extended us, then that is often better conveyed in a written note.

I started writing thank you notes with my children early on. Even young children can draw a picture, write a scribble, or make a handprint. As they grew older and their capabilities increased, they asked to take over more of the thank you note writing process. Whereas my youngest can scribble next to my written messages of thanks, my oldest can write his thank you notes on his own now. My children have learned over the years how to write thank you notes by observing us write thank you notes of our own. It only takes a minute and it is something that will serve our children well.