Photo: Shutterstock

If I’d had to guess, I would have told you pre-motherhood that I would be the type of parent who would be a stickler for having her kid send thank you cards after receiving birthday or holiday gifts. You can probably sense where this is going.

I definitely sent them out once, a stack of notes written by me and painstakingly signed by my son in the early days of being able to pen his own name. In subsequent years, I went so far as to buy the thank you cards, so sure was I that I would make it a priority—only to put it off for so long that eventually, his party seemed like a distant memory.

I want my child to be grateful and express his gratitude, and I know that as far as etiquette goes, an in-person thank you isn’t a substitute for a written thank you note. But my son has a tendency to thank gift-givers in person with such sincerity that I’ve allowed myself to table the written notes as a “thing we will start doing eventually.”

In lieu of a physical thank-you note, I have often taken the easier digital way out with a picture or video of my son either opening the gift or playing with it later. I text that to the giver to illustrate his enjoyment of it, particularly if they weren’t with us in person when he received it. Or, as former Offspring editor Michelle Woo once suggested, you could text a personalized video thank-you message the same day the gift is received.

You could also decide to be strict about it and insist they get that thank you note written before they play with the toy or spend the cash. But I haven’t done that, and when I came across this piece about thank you notes on Lucie’s List, it got me thinking again about whether I’ve been missing out on a prime gratitude-building opportunity by not letting him take ownership of this task.

On the other hand, of all the dozens of kids’ birthday parties he’s been to in his life and countless gifts he’s given to other kids, I think he’s gotten a thank you note maybe… twice? At the most. And it’s never bothered me one bit. The birthday boy or girl says thank you at the party and we all go on with our lives.

So I’m curious what you think. If you do have your kids write out thank you notes, what age did you start? How much did you help? How do you feel about those short, generic fill-in-the-blank cards (“To ___, Thank you for ___. From, ___.”) that take most of the work out of it but might help establish the note-writing habit.

Do you and your kids send out notes of appreciation for all the gifts they receive or just the gifts for certain occasions? Or do you reserve the notes, instead, for someone who is giving of their time, such as a favorite teacher?

Tell us about your thank you note strategy in the comments.


Meet the smartest parents on Earth! Join our parenting Facebook group.