Thank You Notes - when, how, and how frequent?

I didn’t write my first thank you note until after graduation from high school. It wasn’t something that was emphasized in our family, although we did call relatives when they mailed gifts (and of course thanked the giver in person if they were there). Since then, I’ve written thank you notes for my wedding, baby shower, and then baby gifts. I haven’t written them for birthday or Christmas gifts, though I do call, e-mail, or thank the giver in person.

But not everyone does it the same way. Once, I dropped off a meal for a mom who had just had a baby and three days later I received a thank you in the mail. (None of the other moms in this playgroup ever did this, so I decided to appreciate it as an extra gesture and not worry that I hadn’t sent them when I had my baby a few months before :p).

Now that my kids are getting older, I would like to have some kind of “system.” I want to teach good etiquette, but also cultivate gratitude. I’m curious to see how other families do this. So here are my questions:

  • What occasions do/would you send a thank you note for?

  • At what age do you expect your child to write thank you notes?

  • When you give a gift or offer a service to a person, how do you prefer to be thanked?

I’m similar to you in that I wasn’t really brought up to do “Thankyou notes”. I always thanked people but it was usually on the phone or face to face. I sent Thankyou notes after my engagement party and wedding as that was a special occasion and it was easier than spending hours on the phone :o

Our nephews don’t send Thankyou notes but the eldest has only just started writing and he always says Thankyou to us when we give him his gift. I enjoy getting Thankyou notes from very small children just to see them progressing with their writing so there is definitively a benefit. When we have children, I think I will get my kids to write Thankyou notes assuming they haven’t already thanked face to face or via phone and would probably stop at 16 with the letters. Just for birthdays and Christmas.

I receive Thankyou notes from two friends…one is in her 50s, it drives me insane as it sounds so childish…dear x Thankyou for my x it’s lovely. I guess I just associate Thankyou notes to kids with the exception of big events like weddings and engagement party’s. I would much rather her just call me or say it face to face. I suppose if you are the sort of person who keeps letters etc, it would be different, but I read them and then throw them away (again unless from a very special occasion)

Interesting topic, etiquette is changing so much too so it depends on generation as well as the type of society you live in.

We send thank-you notes for all sorts of things: weekend visits, gifts, unexpected acts of kindness. They are easy and better than a phone call.

I start my children writing thank-you notes as soon as they can do so - so end of 1st grade or 2nd grade at the latest.

Also when I go to people’s houses, I always take something with me…wine, flowers, chocolates so I guess that’s a pre-Thankyou tradition.

Very nice! Great job mom!

My mother-in-law used to say “We can’t go visiting with one hand as long as the other!”
Meaning, take a hostess gift. Every time. Even a small bundle of biscuits is welcome.

My mother was very good about making us write thank-you notes. I think we probably started when we were in elementary school and could actually write. We’d send them after birthdays, Christmas, and any other occasion we might have received a gift (graduations, sacraments, etc.).

Personally, I appreciate a thank-you in whatever form it comes. If I’m there with the recipient, a simple thank you right then is nice, and if I’m not, a phone call or a written note is nice either way.

I think as long as you have your kids acknowledge gifts in some way, you’re fine. Written notes are always nice to receive, though, and it is a nice way to teach your kids to pause and think about others’ generosity in a concrete way. Having to think about what to write and how to acknowledge your appreciation is a skill that will help them in the future, even if they complain about it when they’re young (I did!).

- What occasions do/would you send a thank you note for?
If I had some major life event that people sent things to me for, I would write a formal note. If someone remembered my birthday and sent an email I would respond by email.

*- At what age do you expect your child to write thank you notes?
Probably as soon as they could write their name - they might not be able to write a message but could print their name on a thank you card and mom could fill out details.

*- When you give a gift or offer a service to a person, how do you prefer to be thanked? *
Usually, it’s sufficient that someone said thank you when I gave it to them if I gave it to them in person. If the person sent me something in the mail it would be nice to receive a phone call, card or email - any of those things would be ok. If I gave some sort of service to the person, unless it was extraordinary, a simple thanks in person is sufficient.

I wasn’t brought up to write thank you notes. They are nice, but I always saw them as something you did for a formal event like a wedding. Otherwise, an informal thanks is enough.

I hate receiving Thank you notes, I would rather that children, new moms, and newlyweds spend time with their new toy/newborn/new spouse rather than fulfill some social obligation. I feel awkward when I receive one, because I know that no one likes writing Thank you cards. (Except for the one person on this forum who will read this sentence and argue that they do).

That said, I write thank-you cards for any gift that the giver did not see me open or receive, and I treat Christmas and birthday presents for my children the same way.

i think if anyone was thoughtful enough to send you a gift, you should be thoughtful enough to send a card or call them no matter what occasion. Older people especially love thank you notes and cards. facebook is unacceptable as a thank you for something personal. Thank yous also lets the giver know know a gift has been received and not lost in the mail, or now days you can purchase items online and have them sent to the receiver, always nice to let the giver know it arrived, by phone is sufficient i would think for these circumstances.

We send one for every gift, every favor, and every extension of hospitality. We send them to every teacher and the staff at the end of the year, to anyone who goes out of their way for us. I try to have one in the mail within 48 hours. I send them for my kids and when they can write their own names at age 3 or 4, they sign them. By 5 they are writing their own. I have delivered lots and lots of meals to postpartum families and have never not received a prompt thank-you.

Our kids create their own write thank you notes for any gift or adventure someone takes them on. When they are preschool - they spend a lot of time drawing pictures - usually something to do with the gift.

My wife or I will sometimes write on the picture who the people are or what they are doing.

It’s a good lesson to learn- and it doesn’t have to be a horrible chore.

I write thank you notes for major gift-giving occasions. (graduation, showers, wedding) I also write them if someone sends a gift in the mail and aren’t there to see me open it.

I would have my children write thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts (or any other similar occasion). My mom had us writing thank you notes starting at a young age–probably around 5 / 6 / 7? She always had us write longer letters to our grandparents who lived farther away and whom we didn’t get to see very often. (i.e., the letter would start out with a thank you for the gift, and then turn into a nice letter about other subjects.) I think learning to write a letter along with the thank-you is a great skill and habit to instill in kids who are old enough to write.

I guess I don’t usually think about it at the time when giving a gift, but a thank-you note is always a nice gesture of basic etiquette that I appreciate.

I can think of a couple of occasions last year (one was a wedding, the other a First Communion) for which I sent a gift but never received any acknowledgement at all. It would have been nice at least to know whether they received the gift. It is rather rude not to acknowledge a gift at all.

I always thank the kind person when I see them next, or send them an email, but I wonder if there might be some regional and cultural variation as far as what’s expected. I only ever received one thank you card, and I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the new mom showing her appreciation, but I wouldn’t have been offended if she hadn’t said anything at all - after all, she’s busy! It doesn’t seem to be the norm around here.

What would you count as “every favor,” and “every extension of hospitality?” I have been very blessed with kind friends, neighbor, and family - I can’t spend hours every week writing handwritten notes (or I’d need a lot more favors! ;))

God bless you. Yes, writing a note is a time commitment. However so is making a meal, buying a birthday gift or babysitting children. When my children used to say “Mom, it takes me five minutes to write this card!” I would come back with “Do you think it took longer than five minutes to drive to the store, pick out a special gift, wrap it and send it to you?” I was trying to teach them that gratitude is not a burden, although clearly it does take time but hopefully it really will not take up **hours **of your time every week.

When I was younger, I used to think of it as etiquette, but now I think of it as prayer. I say a prayer while I am writing my thank-you-note. I pray for the person that I am grateful to, I pray to God to thank Him for the blessing of good friends. I think this is not so much a practice of good manners as it can be a spiritual exercise. If you look at it like a chore, it will seem like a chore, try and see it as a calling. A special calling to tell your friends they are special, you can tell your friends you are praying for them and thank them for the gift of friendship.

To FrenzyJen: you are funny! Okay you said that no one likes to write cards but someone here will claim that they do. I will officially make that claim hahaha! However it is only because I don’t see the note as a “social obligation” as you called it. I am grateful for my friends and a note gives me the opportunity to SLOW DOWN and put a few feelings down with pen and paper. Hopefully teaching my children to write notes has also given them the chance to slow down and think about gratitude, a rare find these days.

God bless.

I *always *write thank you notes. Always. I make my kids write them, for ALL occasions: Birthday presents, from friends and adult relatives alike; $15 ice cream money from an aunt; everything; and they’ve been doing so since they could write.

Growing up, no birthday presents were played with till thank you cards were written by me. Kids now? Same way.

I am ferociously passionate about this subject.

My mother in law gave me $50 for father’s day Sunday. I did not put it in my wallet until I wrote and mailed a thank you note (sent it Monday). If a check is given to me it is not cashed until the card is sent.

Why? Many reasons:

  1. It’s a sign of good manners and good upbringing. God didn’t make any junk and neither did my parents. They instilled this in me.
  2. It’s a harken back to a more formal, more elegant time – a time before emails and texting.
  3. It’s polite. We live in an impolite society which I refuse to give in to.
  4. Here’s a forgotten one: It’s proof you actually got the gift. A year ago I gave a friend $200 for her 40th birthday. I gave her cash in a birthday card. No thank you note. To this day, I wonder if she lost the envelope at her big party. I also admit I think just a bit less of her for not sending one.
  5. I am aware many people say, “email or just say thank you.” Not good enough. Go ahead, don’t write a thank you note, and I will, and we’ll see which one of us is held in slightly higher esteem. Good manners is more than just that; it’s a pat on the back of the sender compared to those who don’t.
  6. I am aware I will offend some with this statement: In polite company a gift is always acknowledged in writing IMHO. If I give you a gift above $15 value and you can’t bother to acknowledge it, I admit I will think less of you, and I will feel no remorse for doing so: When you’re impolite, expect to be thought of as impolite. Call me names; say I’m haughty and arrogant. Be my guest – but I will also reserve the right to think you’re ignorant for not sending thank you notes.

As I said I feel very passionate about this subject.

Once I was able to write, I was expected to write a thank you note whenever I received a present. I also had to write fancy thank you notes for my interviewers when applying to high schools. After all that, I no longer need a ruler to write cursive in straight lines on unlined paper!

OK, this post is helpful to me to see the other point of view. I personally find it kind of extreme, and upsetting, because I’m very, very grateful for everything that friends, family, and neighbors have done for me over the years, and I make an effort to show that - including by returning the favors (out of gratitude not obligation), but because I wasn’t raised to do with it with notes, I’m rude, ignorant, and impolite. :confused:

I am aware that it is sad we are losing the polite touches of generations past, which is why I want to do better for my kids. I like the idea of sending notes because I like the written word, and I do think it communicates an appreciation that is hard to do with a quick phone call or email, but I also think it gets to crossing a line when a person begins expecting not only to be thanked, but to be thanked in a very specific way and that no other way is acceptable, and that a person who doesn’t do it that way is going to be thought less of as a person. I don’t think I’m stingy with my generosity, but I’ve only received a handful of thank you notes in my life. There have been a couple of occasions when I haven’t received them for occasions when it’s still common to write them (showers, weddings, graduations), but I choose to charitably assume that the person innocently forgot or even that their note got lost in the mail (just as likely as the gift being lost on the way). There are even a couple of funny TV shows about this very topic - there is a mixup about who sent the gift (whether because someone else takes credit or a card is misplaced or whatever) so the giver doesn’t get a thank you, and of course both are unhappy with each other when neither is at fault for anything. :shrug:

I instructed my adult kids who were marrying to immediately call the person upon receiving a gift and then back it up with a thank-you note later. Reason is that some gifts are insured and the giver needs to know ASAP and not six months later.

Little kids should call Grandma and Grandpa immediately. All like hearing from the kids. When they can write, back up the call with a note. Sending a photo of them in the outfit or playing with the toy is a good idea too.

I’m not against e-mail notes. Some of the sites offer beautiful notes. They are quick, pretty, and inexpensive and you know that they’ve been received.

Writing is a skill. Although a thank-you could include a note, the sender should make it personal by addressing the sender by name and refer to the present sent.

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