The New ‘Thank You’: A Note or Text?

Some things will never go out of style: that fab little black dress, my mom’s china pattern, and genuine gratitude.

I want my kids to learn to love all of those things — so how do I teach them the confidence-boosting power of  appreciation?

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One thing is certain, many of the traditions I learned as a child are being outsourced by a digital, disposable world. I’m pretty sure the power of the black dress is here to stay, but many couples don’t even put fine china on their wedding registries anymore. What would Grandma say?!?!

And what about gratitude? A heartfelt thank you is always in style, but the gold standard for gratitude in the past was the hand-written thank you note. So many of us are holding on tight to that tradition, even to the point of having standoffs with our children about it. They would rather send a text or email to thank a friend for a gift, but our ingrained habits tell us it’s improper. What’s a parent to do? 

Communication forever changed when Apple and Microsoft took hold of our lives, but interestingly we are still old fashioned when it comes to thank you notes. I recently threw my 11 year old a surprise birthday party. Such fun and such thoughtful gifts were given! 

Then I did the unthinkable… I let my daughter text her friends her thank you note for the gifts. Yup! I did.

I think of myself as a stickler on etiquette, but this custom just doesn’t make sense in this scenario, so I let it go. And it turns out that my daughters texts were well received by her friends — everyone loved hearing that she liked their gift.

 Just like the shift from formal china to everyday, this handwritten note tradition shouldn’t go away entirely, but can be adapted for our modern digital world. I always consider two factors when deciding how to show thanks: the audience and the intent.

If great aunt Betsy sends my loves a gift, you can bet she’s getting a hand-written note! She hasn’t quite committed to the technological revolution, and that’s okay. Her generation only used handwritten notes, so this is a great opportunity to teach my kids that sometimes, it’s about someone else’s standard of appreciation. On the other hand, if it’s her BFF sending the gift? I don’t have to push for that handwritten note as long as I know my daughter truly appreciates the gift and wants to let the giver know. Take a few minutes to compose a sincere thanks via email or text. In each case, we are acknowledging the gift in the language of the giver.

What about intent? Am I really teaching my children gratitude if I’m standing over them, forcing them to write a letter while they grumble and complain? The underlying lesson that we are trying to ingrain in our kids through these letters is gratitude and humility. And isn’t it easier to teach that lesson if we aren’t arbitrarily following customs that don’t always make sense in our modern world? 

As long as I know my kids grasp the concept of thankfulness and how important it is to show it, I’ll always be open to discussion as to how express it.

And that little black dress? That’s one thing I’ll be sure my girls rock in their own fabulous way.


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