In their book The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent's Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children (HarperCollins, 2002), etiquette authority Peggy Post and noted educator Cindy Post Senning, Ed.D., show parents, grandparents and other caregivers how to teach children manners at every age and for every situation at home, at school and with friends. Here, the experts offer their advice on the art of writing the proper thank-you note:Thank-you notes are a great way to put your child's reading and writing skills to use. Explain to your child that it is customary to thank others in writing for gifts, special occasions and thoughtful acts. A warm thanks makes people feel good, knowing that their gift or action has been gratefully received and is being enjoyed.Children need to learn how to plan what they will say and to write by hand, so don't fall back on impersonal preprinted note cards or computer-generated forms. Children's thank-you messages are generally brief but often stated with enthusiasm and great charm.
Don't worry about fancy stationery at first. Let your child use his school paper and pencils for notes and letters. He'll enjoy writing more if he can also add his artwork to the page. Neatness counts, but don't worry too much about erasures and corrections until the fourth or fifth grade. You can help with spelling, but if "dear" is spelled "deer" by an eight-year-old, let it pass. You will have to address envelopes until your child's writing is legible, but explain the correct form for addresses and return addresses. He can fold and insert his letter, seal the envelope and stamp it.By fourth or fifth grade, your child will probably have control of his writing, and you can introduce real stationery. There are attractive ruled papers available for children, and your youngster may enjoy choosing his own design or personalizing plain stationery with rubber stamps or stickers. Giving him an address book can also encourage his interest in correspondence.
What to Say?
Children often complain that they don't know what to say in notes and letters, so be ready to assist. Ask your child what he would like to say. Suggest ideas and wording if he is really stuck. Begin teaching older children to write down some ideas before beginning a letter, perhaps even drafting important letters before they write the final version. Letters and notes can be learning opportunities as children develop the skills of expressing their feelings and thoughts in ways that are clear and intelligible to others.Younger school-age children may be enthusiastic about writing their own thank-you notes and letters; this kind of responsibility makes a six-year-old feel very grown up. Take advantage of this interest to teach the fundamentals of letter form: date, salutation, closing and signature. Older children often balk at note writing, so parents have to insist and persist. Try not to nag. Appeal to his empathy. ("Uncle Luiz spent a lot of time finding the binoculars you wanted. A note from you will make him feel so happy.") Organize a place, time and the materials for letter writing and sit down with your child while he writes. Once he gets the hang of it