When Dixie Dew got a box full of doggie treats from one of her fans, she wagged her tail and jumped around the kitchen, eager to dive into them.
“Now, Dew, you know you’ve got to write a thank-you note for these,” I lectured as I permitted her one of the treats. There was no argument. My child knows that acts of generosity require a hand written note. We sat down together, she laid her head on my lap and we decided what should be written. Dew is a girl of few words, but we got the thoughts down on paper and she signed off with a paw pressed into an ink pad and then stamped on the note.
As I wrote in an earlier column, I no longer expect adults to send me a thank-you note. This, after someone had made a hateful remark about not receiving one from me a mere two weeks after I had received a small gift from her yet she had never sent me one over years of gifts. I often tell family, “Now, don’t send me a thank you note for that. You’ve thanked me enough.” Still, when I get a note of appreciation, I appreciate it a lot. And, I’m still writing them myself. This week alone, I have mailed out five thank-you notes.
But what concerns me greatly is that children and teenagers aren’t being taught or pressed to write thank you notes. The only teenager I have received a grateful note from in two years was one whose family home had burned completely and all was lost. I heard from others that her saddest loss was the signed first editions of all my books. She dreams of being an author and follows my writings. I replaced the books and she wrote a sweet letter that I shall cherish always.
However, most teenagers, in an age of entitlement, never think twice. But is it their fault or is it the fault of parents and guardians who don’t stress the importance of gratitude?
My niece, Nicole, is one of the great thank-you note writers of all time. She writes impressive notes. They’re funny, personal, sweet and grateful all rolled into one. I shiver with happiness when one arrives. Now the mother of five, I thought Nicole was a good one to ask because her oldest, Jon, is just at the age to write thank you notes.
“Are you teaching Jon to write thank you notes?”
“Absolutely. In fact, we have a rule that whenever he gets a toy, he has to put it up and not play with it until he has written a thank you note.”
Good teaching. And it’s one that will serve him well in the future. If he is one in 10,000 who writes a thank you note, he will always stand out to people. It will help to further his success in life and people will think more kindly of him and, in turn, treat him with increased respect.
In recent months, I have gifted teenage girls with various presents, which were mostly shrugged off and not one sent a thank you note. Here’s my response:
So much goes in teaching children but one critical lesson is missing from what I’ve experienced with your daughter: You’ve neglected to instruct her on the power of thank you and courtesy in a world where civility is disappearing. It is a grave disservice and will handicap her future because a spirit of gratitude is essential to maximum success. It should be hand-written and not texted or e-mailed. Teaching her the power of appreciation will place extreme power in her hands. It will make her extraordinary in a field of ordinary. When she is older, she will be grateful to you for the lesson.
It’s a simple but necessary courtesy. Even my dog knows that.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter here.