Shortcuts to Gratitude

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"Mama, if I give back the gift, do I still have to write the thank-you note?" Grace asked innocently as she labored to express her appreciation for her birthday gifts. I winced at my failed attempt to teach Gratitude 101.

It had been two weeks since the big day where we had included her whole kindergarten class for a jumpy house party, and she was still struggling to formally acknowledge and thank everyone for the shameless amount of presents she'd been showered with. (Shame on me for my "no gifts please" oversight on the invitation.)

Weary of my Pollyanna effusiveness over how generous her friends and family had been and how fortunate she was, Grace's appreciation was waning with each carefully handwritten note she struggled to complete. What began as an exciting opportunity to express thankfulness and thoughtfulness had dragged into an overwhelming chore.

In my zealous effort to instill good manners, I had insisted Grace take a traditional approach — writing out each note and addressing the envelopes herself. I'd let my inner Ms. Manners miss the point — it's not about the note, it's about the sincere expression of appreciation.

I gave Grace a break that night and asked her to think about how we could make telling everyone "thank you" feel a little more fun and a little less like work. Together we came up with some ideas.

We mixed things up by taking pictures of her with some of the gifts with short notes like one of her with a new jewelry box and a note that that simply said, "Thank you, Aunt Kathy." Some presents — like a new plush animal — she drew pictures of. I created some notes with the computer where I typed the words "Thank you for the" and then added some blank lines where she could write in the gifts. For computer-savvy family and friends, we sent a few online thank-you cards via

When Grace, completely unprompted, drew a picture of herself wearing her new roller skates and presented it to us with a big hug and a sincere "Thank you, Mama and Daddy," we felt a grateful wave of pride and relief to have the "thank you drama" end on a happy note.

How do you teach your kids to say "thank you"? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Shortcuts to Gratitude

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