Thursday, October 4, 2007

Birthday Checks & Thank You Notes....

My children are now grown and live elsewhere, so their thank you writing habits are either ingrained, or they're not, but recently I was reminded me of one of my standard mommying practices once they were old enough to write.
Their grandparents would typically send them checks for both birthdays and Hanukkah. Since children don't have to pay bills, the arrival of checks (or cash, for that matter) is totally abstract. The clear message was to save it, not spend it, and that is not very sexy to kids. Actually adults have trouble with this concept as well. If they weren't wanting anything huge or significant, they pretty much ignored the checks and needed a lot of supervision/encouragement/attention to write the obligatory thank you notes.
I hit on the following solution. I would pin the check up on the bulletin board and refuse to deposit it into his/her account until the thank you note was written. Sometimes it would take a few months! Generally by then the grandparents would have called, worried that the check was never cashed. Sooner or later the child would agree to write the note; the reward was getting it off their to-do list and getting their mom off their back. (They have since learned that checks pay bills and are very grateful for any that come their way....)
I think it is crucial for children to learn to write thank you notes. And they should be good, thoughtful thank you notes. When I coached my children on thank you notes, what I emphasized is that the gift is a reflection of a relationship, so try to address both the gift and the relationships. For example, "It was really great you sent me a check for my birthday. I feel so lucky you are there for me for all the special moments in my life" or something like that. Personally I still melt when I get a really good thank you. In fact I save the very special ones, and I once showed my collection to my daughter. Since then she's written terrific notes - I'm sure they're the ones other people save!
Given my observation of the abstract nature of check giving, I'm not sure it's the best gift to give children, especially affluent children. Thoughts on this, anyone?


Anonymous said...

I've always found it to be a source of amazement that the kids can be long removed from the nest and on their own for several years but to the parents they feel personally responsible when someone approaches you to ask whether their kid received the gift that they sent to him or her. In our daughter's case, after a few occurances of prodding her to write these notes promptly, the gift giver was then asked by us to contact our daughter personally. Since the last time this happened we've been swarmed with wonderful comments about her great thank you notes and their promptness. Kids might tune their parents out every so often but they can't tune out a vexed gift-giver. As you said you can only hope that their prompt responses to gifts are ingrained when young.

Jennifer (mom of four) said...

I completely agree with you on the Thank you notes. I make all of my children write them after Christmas and birthday's. I think writing thank you notes is somewhat of a lost art. With email and cell phones, people tend to use those instead of "snail Mail"

I love that you wait for the note to be written before you deposit the check!!