Thirty Days of Giving Thanks!

I think we are often grateful for people in our lives. One person can make quite the difference and not even realize the impact they have made. For a while now, I’ve been thinking about thanking some of the people who have made an impact in my life. A simple e-mail or a written thank you note can express how we feel and let that person know that they made a difference.

A Free Spirit Life is hosting Thirty Days of Giving Thanks. While I can’t say that I am writing a person a day, the idea was enough to finally get me started on my idea of sending thank you notes.

The result has been surprising. Most people had no idea of a small act of their own had greatly affected me. I was surprised at how much I had affected them. My thank yous have received their own thank yous  – not only for letting the person know about their impact but also for the impact I have made on that person’s life.

We often feel gratitude for the actions of others, but I think that we don’t express that nearly often enough. Thank you to all who have made a positive experience in my life and to those who provided opportunities for me to grow.

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.

cultivating manners without being rude…

Before my husband and I were married, I was visting him at his parent’s house for the weekend. We had just gotten back from playing roller hockey and his mother asked if I would like some water. I replied, “Yes, please! ” When she handed it to me, I said, “I really appreciate it. It was so hot outside and the ice water looks so wonderful.” She stared at me and with a smug look, demanded, “What do you say?”

While I hadn’t explicity said the words “thank you,” I had made my intent and appreciation perfectly clear. Situations such as this rarely occur between two adults. It’s thought to be blatantly rude. However, children are not allotted the same respect. There have been countless times when I’ve heard a parent or other caregiver demand from a child, “What do you say?” or “Say ‘please!'” or some other such phrase.

I agree that there are social niceties which make interacting with others go more smoothly. Manners allow us to smooth transitions and social situations. As parents hoping to help their children learn life skills, that doesn’t mean we have to go about it in such a rude manner.

Just as children learn to eat, speak, talk, walk, and everything else, they learn their manners from us. Manners are social skills acquired through the idenitification with and imitation of poite parents. If we model polite manners, our children will pick up those skills. My children have consistently used polite words such as please, thank you, and you are welcome since before they could talk, through the use of sign language. Later, they spoke the words. My husband and I have never prompted them to say these words. We speak respectfully and politely to and with our children, and they in turn do the same.

The idea that parents must be rude to their children in order to impart politeness baffles me. By interrupting a child who is interrupting someone who is talking, parents model that interruptions are actually acceptable. Grabbing a toy out of a child’s hands doesn’t express that the child shouldn’t grab toys away from others. The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” has been proven time and time again to be ineffective, yet many parents still proclaim these techniques as necessary in order for their children to learn. A little modeling of social skills would help everyone be much more polite (parents included).