UK Guardian writer Peter Ormerod
…tells NPR’s Arun Rath that he’s not at all against gratitude. His argument has more to do with the spirit of the thing. “It’s really because gratitude is so important to me. I don’t, however, think that forcing children to write what’s often quite formulaic letters — I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way of helping children develop gratitude.”
Instead, he thinks the emphasis should be on getting kids to feel and experience gratitude, rather than just make a show of it. And once they feel it, he says, they can express it in fun or creative ways, “ways that feel much less like a chore.” That could involve drawing pictures, taking photos or baking. Ormerod says he’s even written songs for people.
Ormerod tags thank you letter-writting as an “anachronism” and an “exercise in lying” designed to “maintain respectability” among parents because no one wants to have a child who is an “ingrate.” So, would you dear parents of America choose to let your child feel gratitude by baking cookies or Instagramming their gift? In this social media age, where we share photographs of our meals and ruminations on our work lives, would expressing thanks through a written message add much needed veracity to an otherwise seemingly meaningless milieu? Would a handwritten note express deeper, longer lasting emotion than a public message? Or is it better to follow Ormerod’s advice and simply have the kid do nothing at all?
If “nothing at all” is the answer, take a look at the statistics. Not saying “thank you” in a written note may cost you big time down the line. According to a recent survey conducted by the Royal Mail:
New research by Royal Mail has revealed the true cost of not saying thank you for Christmas presents. Of those people expecting thank you letters, over half (52 per cent) say they would reduce the cost of their gift by up to £10 next year if they did not receive a thank you letter.
A further 10 per cent said they would cut their budget from £25 to £21 if they were not thanked properly in writing.
The survey also found that 20 per cent would be so offended that they would not bother buying their loved one a gift again.
Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of those surveyed said it was important for children to say thanks via a note, while over half of adults (53 per cent) think thank you letters are important too.
Note that for all of his heavy-handed philosophizing about parenting, Ormerod is childless and bases his theory in having to arduously write out thank you notes as a child. If you’re looking to exemplify “petulant” to your child, have them read his screed. They’ll thank you, if not now then definitely later.