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Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting

I learned my lesson when I took a 6-year-old boy to his neurology appointment. I had no control. He was all over the place—climbing the walls (literally) and touching everything. The neurologist walked in to see my exasperation. Then he performed a miracle. He produced a small wind-up toy from his pocket, wound it up, set it on the bed, and walked out of the room. The toy took three small steps, banged small cymbals, and did a flip…over and over again. The 6-year-old stopped running around and watched the toy. When it stopped performing, he wound it up and started over. Throughout the process, he stayed calm. He began to learn the art of waiting. And I began to learn my role in helping children learn to wait. Since then, I have learned several lessons to help children wait. Here are five tips to help your child learn the art of waiting…and keep you from pulling your hair out at the same time.
     ·         Learn the art of engagement and distraction. Engage your child in some activity that will distract him from the waiting. You can play “I Spy,” a game of cards, or tic-tac-toe. Your child might enjoy telling stories or singing songs. You can ask questions about his day, a book he is reading, life at school, or his plans for the week. In the process, you learn about your child and distract him from waiting.

·         Plan ahead. Pack a small bag with toys, books, games, and even a small snack to engage your child while waiting. Let him bring his favorite book or project to an appointment where he may have to wait. Enjoy a small snack while waiting. Play a game of cards, build with Lego’s, or play with a handheld game. You can even plan something special immediately following the appointment that demands waiting, such as a trip to the ice cream store or a special meal at home.

·         Don’t rush ’em, let ’em finish. During your daily life, allow your child to focus on his activities without the stress of having to quit early. In doing so, you recognize how much your child values that activity. He feels understood and appreciated. And, with that understanding firmly in place, he will become more willing to wait when necessary. Sometimes you will not have the time to allow your child to finish his project before you have to move on to the “next thing.” When that is the case, give a warning. Let him know he only has 20 more minutes to finish what he can and clean up. Help him determine a good spot to stop for the day. Warn him again at 10 minutes and then at 5 minutes let him know it is time to clean up.

·         Show your child that you are reliable. When you say you will do something, do it. When you make a promise, keep it. A recent study 
showed that children who experience reliable interactions with an adult are better able to wait. The 3-to 5-year-olds in this study delayed gratification four times longer after experiencing a reliable adult who kept their promise. So, keep your promises. Show your child that you are reliable. When your child knows you as reliable, your word and your promise will help them practice the art of waiting.

·         Model the art of waiting for your children. Children learn from watching. They mimic their parents. They repeat the patterns of behavior they see in their parents. So, if you want your children to practice the art of waiting, let them see you waiting patiently as well.
 
Waiting is an art that we have to learn and practice. Begin teaching your children today…and begin by modeling the art of waiting yourself.

6 Questions You Didn’t Know Your Children Were Asking

Our children have questions that only we, their parents, can answer…and we need to answer them. They don’t ask these questions directly and they may not even realize they ask them at all. But they do. They ask these questions with their quiet presence and their disruptive presence. They ask them while waiting for us to notice and acknowledge them. They also ask these questions in the form of more subtle, seemingly benign questions like, “Do you like my new hair color?” or “Can we get dessert?” They even ask them with their misbehaviors. Let me share just 6 of the real questions our children are asking in these behaviors, 6 questions they need us to answer.

  1. Am I important? When our children know we value them, they feel valuable. We communicate how much we value our children by accepting them, listening to them, and taking time to learn about their world. We also express how much we value our children through gratitude. Become a student of your children. Spend time with them. Communicate how important they truly are to you.
  2. Am I good enough? In fact, am I enough? This question is a question of identity. Our children need to know we that know them and recognize their worth, even when they feel like they’ve failed. This requires us to give them space and assistance, support and encouragement, in exploring their strengths and interests. Our children also need to know they are good enough even when we discipline them. To communicate this message, we need to give them unconditional positive regard, even when we disagree with them or discipline them.
  3. Do I belong? As our children turn to teens, friends become increasingly important. Still, they need and want family. They need to have a sense of belonging in their family even while they explore and establish a sense of belonging among their peers. This is a tightrope for many families. Let your children try new things. Encourage then to recognize how various groups of people impact them and their behavior. Help them find the peer group in which they feel most comfortable, whether it be the theatre group, the music group, the sports group, the academic group, or some combination of them all. At the same time, always communicate that they will belong in your family no matter the peer group they choose.
  4. Am I romantic enough? I’m not sure this represents the best way to word this question. It’s a question delving into attraction, romance, and intimacy. Teach your children from an early age that romance entails mutual kindness and respect. Teach them that physical and emotional intimacy cannot be separated without resulting pain. Teach them that restraint and self-control are as important as sex; and, without self-control, sex leads to emotional hurt. “Ultimately, encourage them to wait and wait and then wait a little longer. Waiting for sex is based on good science” (From Raising Healthy Girls). (See Cheat Codes” for Dads: Your Daughter’s Beauty for more.)
  5. Do you trust me? The answer we give our children to this question begins much earlier than most of us imagine. It begins as early as those toddler years when our toddler says, “No” to our assistance and we step back, trusting them to work at completing the task. It extends into the school years when we put a reasonable structure in place and trust they will complete their schoolwork. They continue this question into adolescence when they ask us if they can “go to my friend’s party” or ” use the car tonight.”  Trusting demands a step of faith on our part. Take the step. Trust unless given a clear reason not to. Even then, leave the door open to reestablish trust by taking a step of faith. Remember, a child who feels their parent trusts them is more likely to act in a trustworthy manner.
  6. Am I strong enough to be my own person? The most difficult aspect of a parent’s job is to prepare their children to become independent adults, to let them leave home and become their own person. This goal is the end result of a process that evolves over their first two decades of life. It is the result of a parent teaching their child a task and then letting them do it independently, even if they want to do it differently than us. It is the result of letting go when they go to preschool, letting go when they go on their first dates, letting go when they drive to the mall on their own for the first time…all while remaining available in the background as a safety net, ready to respond to their call for help IF they need it.

Our children ask these questions every day. We answer them through our words, our actions, and our interactions. For your children’s sake, answer them wisely.

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

I was speaking to a father in my office when his 2-year-old daughter brought him an Etch-A-Sketch from the toy shelf. Tapping the screen, she said, “I-pad broke, Daddy. I-pad broke.” We both smiled.

Perhaps you’ve seen a parent in a store or restaurant carting a somewhat fussy toddler. In frustration, they hand their toddler their cell phone and, voila, a calm toddler. Infant toddler media use is on the rise. Parents report that on average, children younger than 2-years-old spend about an hour a day of screen time. Children between 0- and 8-years-old read, or are read to, about half an hour a day while spending an average of an hour and 25 minutes engaged in screen time. Even more, 19% of the parents in the survey reported using media to regulate their children’s emotions “often” and 36% reported doing this “some of the time.” (Read more here.) What are we teaching our children with all this? Unfortunately, we may be teaching them to reach for their media devices when upset or bored, increasing the risk of a media addiction.  Another study found that toddlers were more likely to tantrum in response to frustration when their parents used media to help them stay calm.

“But my child can’t wait patiently at the restaurant… or sit in the car for a long drive… or get through a store without a screen. They’ll have a meltdown.” That’s good news. It means you have a great opportunity to teach your children better ways to regulate their emotion and their boredom. Here are some ways you can help.

  • Prepare ahead of time. Bring some simple activities to distract or engage your child. This might include small toys, dolls, picture books, or stickers. Be creative and bring whatever small thing might entertain your child. (For one idea read Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting.)
  • Accept and validate their emotions. I know I get bored on a long car ride. It’s easy to get frustrated at the supermarket. If we as adults have these experiences, our children probably do, too. Label their emotion for them. Empathize with them. Even comfort and soothe them.
  • Label their emotions when they get upset. Children benefit from gaining an “emotional vocabulary.” Having a word to use in expressing an emotion increases their ability to manage that emotion in a healthy way. (Learn 6 Ways to Make Your Children’s Emotions Your Friend.)
  • Engage your child’s help. Even 2-year-olds enjoy helping” Mommy and Daddy.” Set them on the lookout for the picture on their favorite cereal box. Talk through your decision between apples or oranges with them. Make the journey a mystery. “I wonder what we’ll find in this aisle?” Engage them in the activity through playful interactions, conversation, and simple decision-making.
  • In the process, enjoy time with your child. Children seem to have a “second sense” about whether their parents are upset, frustrated, or happy. And, younger children take their emotional cues from their parent. Whey you enjoy time with your child, it is more likely they’ll enjoy time with you.

Self-Control, Smartphones, Rewards, & Success

Researchers from Freie Universitat in Berlin Germany published some interesting findings about smartphones, self-control, and rewards. Specifically, their research revealed that participants who “had a greater total amount of screen time (spent more time on their phones and tablets) were more likely to prefer small, immediate rewards to larger, more delayed rewards,” especially when screen time was spent on gaming and social media.

In addition, participants with greater self-control spent less time on their phones while those with lower levels of self-control spent more time on their phone. Altogether, more time on smartphones, especially in combination with lower levels of self-control and a preference for gaming and social media, was associated with a preference for smaller, more immediate goals. Limited self-control and a preference for smaller, more immediate goals sounds like a formula to impede success, doesn’t it? After all, success generally implies a level of self-control that enables a person to persist through struggles and setbacks, delaying the immediate, easy reward, so they can achieve the larger more challenging goal.

The authors were not saying smartphones caused or led to less self-control and a preference for smaller, more immediate goals. In fact, I tend to think that people who struggle with self-control are likely drawn to the gaming and social media apps because they offer smaller, more immediate rewards. It satisfies their need for reward without having to manage the frustration of persisting through the greater struggles necessary for a long-term reward. The gaming and social media apps may simply reinforce those tendencies. So, the question is not whether a person should have a smartphone or engage in gaming or social media—our children will do that just like we do. No, the question is: how do we teach our children self-control?

  1. Model self-control. Children emulate what they see. Practice self-control when in traffic, when in disagreements. The more children see you practice self-control, the more likely they will practice self-control as well.
  2. Build a trusting relationship with your child. The more reliable you are, the easier it is for your children to practice self-control. Follow through on your word. Do what you promise. Build a reputation as trustworthy and your children will likely grow in self-control.
  3. Give your children the opportunity to wait—it’s a gift. Receiving everything immediately will hamper your children’s development of self-control. Learning that “good things come to those who wait” and “effort over time contributes to success” can promote the development of self-control. Teach your child the art of waiting.
  4. Encourage self-control practices. When you see your children getting upset, present them with ideas that promote self-control. For instance, you could encourage them to soothe themselves: “Take a moment to pull yourself together and we can talk about it then,” Or “Take a deep breath and calm down so you can manage this better.” “I wonder how your friend feels about this?” can offer them the opportunity to take a different person’s perspective, which will help them develop self-control. On the other hand, “How does this decision fit into your goals?” encourages them to keep their priorities and goals in mind as they move through the world. This, too, will help them develop self-control. Each time you encourage your children to soothe themselves, consider another person’s perspective, practice self-awareness, or keep goals and values in mind you help them grow in self-control. (For more ideas, read Teach Your Child Self-Control.)

Good News for Parents of Children with Asthma

Northwestern University conducted a study exploring the interaction between neighborhood environmental conditions, families, and asthma symptoms in children diagnosed with asthma. Using Google Street View, the researchers took a virtual walk through each neighborhood considered to look at evidence of graffiti, abandoned cars, bars on home windows and doors, and abandoned homes. Then they interviewed the children who lived in the various communities about their family relationships, especially regarding support, trust, and conflict present in the family. Finally, they measured asthma outcomes in the children. 

They discovered that children living in neighborhoods high in danger and disorder had fewer asthma symptoms and fewer activity limitations when they had better family relationships. The children with positive family relationships also had better pulmonary functioning.  (In neighborhoods lower in danger and disorder, family relationships did not impact their asthma.)

That’s great news. Positive family relationships helped to decrease children’s symptoms of asthma. It buffered them from the impact of other negative environmental factors that might increase those symptoms (like living in a dangerous neighborhood). So, if you have a child with asthma and you want to help them manage their asthma effectively, build positive family relationships in general and a positive relationship with your child, in particular. Here are some great ways to do it.

  • Spend time in positive activities with your child. Read to them. Play games with them. Go for a walk with them. Talk with them. Develop a bedtime routine that includes time together before bed. Be creative in how you do it but spend time with your children. (Here are some Mundane Opportunities for Quality Time with your children.)
  • Keep your promises. Follow through on your word. Doing so will increase their trust in you. It will also increase their self-control (Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting).
  • Become knowledgeable of their lives. Learn about their interests. Meet their friends. Help them with schoolwork. Show interest in their hobbies. Acknowledge their strengths. Remember Parents are Students…and Guess Who the Teacher Is!
  • Acknowledge the “positives” in their life. Show gratitude for their positive actions. Thank them for doing chores (even if they’re supposed to do them). Acknowledge their efforts. Recognize their beauty. Thank them for dressing appropriately.

These four actions can help you build a positive relationship with your child. If you live in a neighborhood that presents some dangers and disorder, that relationship with help your child manage their asthma symptoms more effectively…and this treatment is free!

Have Fun AND Reduce Childhood Aggression

You may have heard a lot about executive functioning over the last few years. Executive functioning is the ability to manage one’s self and one’s resources to reach a goal.  Executive functioning skills include the ability to set goals for a plan and then monitor progress toward those goals as well as skills like sustained attention, memory, and impulse-control. As you can see, these skills are crucial for our children’s maturity. In fact, a recent study from researchers at the University of Potsdam found that deficits in executive functioning during elementary school predicted higher physical and relational aggression three years later (Childhood Aggression Linked to Deficits in Executive Function). Fortunately, executive functioning is a learnable skill! That’s right. You can help your children learn the skills of executive functioning and improve in those skills as they age.  In fact, tools that teach executive functioning are not even difficult to implement. They even provide an opportunity for you to have fun with your children! Let me give you a few examples.

  • Playing games that require taking turns will teach impulse control. Having to “wait for my turn” means managing my desire to go, controlling my impulse and waiting for someone else. “Waiting for one’s turn” also requires a person to keep a goal in mind while someone else takes their turn. While waiting for one’s turn, a person monitors their progress toward a goal while comparing it to the other person’s progress toward the same goal.  Impulse control, focus, planning, monitoring progress while keeping a goal in mind…all while waiting my turn in a game. “Trouble” and “Sorry” take on a whole new meaning with this information in mind.
  • Games like “Mother May I” and “Simon Says” teach impulse control, focused attention, and listening. These are great executive functioning skills.
  • Imaginary or pretend games involve storytelling, planning, managing emotions to fit the story, negotiation, and more. Encouraging children to engage in imaginative play not only nurtures executive functioning skills, it “makes them a head taller than themselves.”
  • Song games with movements teach young children executive functioning skills like focused attention (focusing on the words of the song), self-control, and memory (remembering the words to the song and the movements). As children get older, line dances, marching band, and dance routines accomplish similar goals.
  • Games (board games, card games, or team games) that require strategy teach many executive functioning skills. For instance, strategy games encourage planning, holding a plan in mind for several moves ahead, adjusting the plan as obstacles arise, and working memory to remember the plan. Whether the strategy game is chess, Battleship, Clue, or basketball, it will nurture your children’s executive functioning skills.

I hope you get the idea. There are many more activities that promote executive functioning skills (find more in this “Activities Guide” from the Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University). From participating in sports or plays…to learning to play an instrument…to imaginative play and storytelling you will have a great time enhancing your children’s executive functioning through play… and you’ll decrease the likelihood of aggressive behavior in the future. Our world could definitely thank you for that!

Raising a Confident Child

How do children form a positive self-concept? How do they come to see themselves in a positive light? How do they develop confidence and learn to esteem themselves well? These questions arise in many a parent’s mind as they interact with and discipline their children. We want to help our children develop a persistent confidence in their abilities while not becoming arrogant. Sometimes we doubt ourselves. We wonder if we are really doing the right thing (at least I do!). We constantly search out practical advice for increasing our children’s self-confidence. Friends, family members, experts, books…we search them all to find reassurance that we are doing a good job and in hopes of finding the “magic bullet” to help our kids grow.  Well, I don’t have a magic bullet, but I have found several practical ideas to help raise confident children.

  • Warm up. Develop a warm relationship with your children. Warm parents show an interest in their children’s activities. They share their children’s joys and excitements. Doing so makes their children feel noticed and valued. It increases their self-esteem. It contributes to their self-confidence. (For more on the impact of a warm relationship, read An Amazing Parenting Insight Learned in Three Parts)
  • Praise effort, not ability. Acknowledge your children’s effort and investment rather than just the end product. Let them know you see how hard they work to make things happen. This helps our children learn their effort impacts their world and their success comes through effort. It teaches them to value effort and notice the successes found in effort, even if the end result was not what they initially intended. Effort, as opposed to waiting for something to “fall in our laps,” leads to success.  And, success builds self-confidence.(Build Your Child’s Success Mindset offers more tips.)
  • Do not overpraise. Our children need us to acknowledge their effort and appreciate their accomplishments, but overpraise will backfire. Excessive praise actually contributes to lower self-esteem. Overpraise can contribute to arrogance. Sometimes extremely positive, inflated praise can contribute to narcissism, a sense of personal grandiosity. Excessive praise can also set our children up to worry about falling short of the standards for which they have already received lavish amounts of praise.  So, go ahead and appreciate achievements. Acknowledge accomplishments. Praise effort and investment. But don’t overdo it. Don’t overpraise. It just gets in the way of healthy self-confidence. (Read How to Ruin Your Child with Praise for more.)
  • Value failure. Treat failure as a time of learning rather than a catastrophe. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn what does not work and explore changes that can lead to a better result. I like Oprah’s quote, “Think like royalty. Royalty is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness” (I hope she’ll excuse my changing her use of the word “queen” to “royalty.” If not, I guess I’ll learn from the failure.) Confident people fail gracefully. Confident people know failure is not the end of the world. Confident people recognize failure as a signal for problem-solving, making changes, and moving toward “greatness.” (Do Your Child a Favor)
  • Give your children important tasks to complete. Let them have chores around the house. Chores and tasks build a sense of competence and competence contributes to confidence. (Chores: The Gift of Significance will explain even more.)
  • Model healthy confidence in your own life. Work to improve your self-confidence and your children will follow in your example. Value your failures and talk about what you learn from them. Acknowledge your achievements while focusing on the effort and investment that led to those achievements. Accept their acknowledgements of your success with a smile and a simple “thank you.” Maintain warm loving relationships, especially with your children. Children imitate those they see and admire. They become like those they imitate. Give them a self-confident parent they can look up to and imitate.

Put these six practical actions in place and your children will grow in confidence daily!

Investing Time & Attention in Your Children

Children have two currencies for LOVE: TIME and ATTENTION (Read Your Child’s Currency For Love for mistaken investments). When parents invest time and attention into their children’s emotional bank account, their children grow to know themselves as significant and valuable. They realize they hold a place of importance in their parents’ lives. As a Happy family playingresult, they become more confident. They also develop a greater desire to please their parents. They obey more often and internalize their parents’ moral values more readily. In other words, time and attention are two powerful discipline investments that will result in better behaved children. One great way to invest time and attention in your children is through “Banking Play Time.” Here’s how it works.

  1. Set aside 15-20 minutes each day for playtime with your child. Do not make this time contingent on behavior. Do not use it as a form of punishment or reward. Just enjoy 15-20 minutes of play time with your child each day.
  2. Let your child pick the activity (within reason—TV does not work well for this type of investment). Let your child lead the activity as well. You simply follow your child’s lead. Play what they want to play, how they want to play.
  3. Become a student of your child’s actions and imaginations during this playtime. Objectively observe and verbally describe your child’s behavior during this activity. You can objectively describe behavior in several ways.
    1. You can simply report what you see your child doing. “Joey stacks the blocks and knocks them down.” “You put a blue dress on Barbie.” “You threw the ball right to me.”
    2. You may also describe what your child might be imagining in his play, modifying your play-by-play account as he directs. “Joey built a tower and knocked it down like the Hulk!” “You dressed Barbie in a pretty blue dress for dinner with friends.” “He throws the ball to first base and the runner is out! The crowd cheers.”
    3. You can also describe positive behaviors you observe during play. “You are waiting so patiently for your turn.” “You are working hard at putting that dress on Barbie just right.”
  4. Do not give directives or teach during playtime. This is child-directed play. You simply follow your child’s lead, spending time with them and paying attention to what he is doing. You are investing your time in playing how your child desires to play. You’re investing your attention in noticing them, their activity, and their thoughts and imaginations.
  5. Look for something positive, special, or unique about your child or his play. Verbally acknowledge or describe that unique quality. When you describe these positive qualities, make them specific and positive rather than a general label. For instance, say, “I like how you take turns” rather than “That’s a good boy.”
  6. If your child starts to engage in some negative behavior during play time, ignore it. Do not make eye contact. Simply continue engaging in, and commenting on, the positive aspects of the play activity. If the negative behavior starts to dominate the playtime, simply end the “banking time” session.

Try this method of investing time and attention into your child’s emotional bank account for 3-4 weeks. You will be surprised at how your child’s behavior improves.

Becoming Your Child’s Royal Subject

Do you ever feel like your children are the ones in charge? Like you are their royal subject? In some ways, our children do hold a great deal of power. From the day our little prince or princess is born, they begin to shape our life. We sleep when she sleeps, eat when she eats, and change our schedule of activities based on her schedule. Our child’s royal reign does not end as she grows older. Even when she reaches her teen years, we find ourselves waiting up at night (with at least one eye open) for her to come through the front door safe and sound after an evening out with her friends…or, we arrange to eat dinner early so she can make it to the high school football game on time.
 
Yes, in many ways we become the royal subjects of our children. Really, it’s not such a bad thing. In fact, I believe it is good and right that we become subject to our children in some areas. Don’t get me wrong. Parents remain parents. Parents have to maintain a role of authority…but there are areas in which a parent becomes subject to their children; and, parent and child both benefit from this role. When we become the royal subjects of our children, we learn what it means to “not look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others.” We practice the art of “considering other people’s needs as more important than our own.” Consider this example. A mother generally learns the difference between her child’s cry of hunger and her child’s cry for a diaper change. When she hears her tired baby cry for a diaper change, she does not force her baby to sleep or eat. She does not decide that her baby’s need for a nap is more important than the baby’s “expressed” desire for a diaper change. No, a mother becomes her child’s royal subject. She submits to her child’s need and meets that need. Psychologists call this a contingent response: a response that is dependent on the child’s needs…a response that strives to meet the child’s expressed need. When parents become the royal subject of their child’s true needs, she will learn to trust others and develop a trust in her own ability to influence those around her to help meet her needs. In order for parents to practice giving their child a “contingent response,” they must become their child’s royal subject. This involves three things.
     ·         First, as a royal subject, make yourself aware of your child’s needs. Learn about your child and her fears, worries, vulnerabilities, joys, anticipations, and dreams. Discover what interests her and what bothers her. Learn about her daily activities and her upcoming activities. Pay attention to what arouses her fear and anxiety. Notice her moods and what precipitates those moods. Learn how your words impact her and what words elicit the best response from her. Discover when and where she is most likely to talk to you about her daily life. Pay attention to how she responds to you and adjust your response accordingly. In other words, give up your desire to make your child what you want them to be and study the person they are. Think more highly about her interests and do not let your interests dictate hers.

·         As your child tells you about her needs, accept them as legitimate. They may seem small and irrelevant to you, but they are significant and often overwhelming to your child. Give up your adult understanding long enough to listen to your child and understand her fear, joy, or anxiety about the situation. Empathize with her concerns and begin to ask questions to help you gain an understanding of her perspective of the situation. Give up your need to be heard and your desire for your child to have a pain-free existence. Instead, be vulnerable enough to accept her need, understand her perspective of that need, empathize with pain, and listen…listen…listen.

·         After you have shown your child that you understand the situation from her perspective and you have empathized with her concerns, then you can move into mutual problem solving. Do not solve the problem for her. Give up your need to have the perfect answer and become your child’s hero. Instead, allow her to problem solve and discover a solution with your guidance. You might even begin by simply asking, “What do you think you’ll do about that?” Then, have a conversation about the situation that can help her understand the problem in a new light. Develop a solution together.
 
Children teach us many things. By learning to have a “contingent response” to our child’s needs, we learn to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard [our child] as more important than ourselves, not merely looking out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of [our child]” (Philippians 2:3-4). In this way, we become the royal subjects of our children so they can learn the best way to live and grow into mature adults.

Forgotten Family Arts: The Thank You Note

The world seems to change at an alarming rate. Just yesterday I thought of a mouse as a tiny furry animal; today a mouse is a near-obsolete piece of technology used with a desktop computer. I remember listening to records-the flat ones that required a record player with a needle to play. Today, we simply download music to our IPhones and put head phones in our ears to shut out the world. These changes have resulted in some lost arts. For instance, storytelling seems to be replaced with TV. Imaginative games of cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians are replaced by video games like “Assassin.” And, when was the last time you hand wrote a letter rather than using email, twitter, texting, or Word?
 
The family has some lost arts as well. For instance, teaching our children to honor gift-givers with a thank-you seems to be a disappearing art. Remember writing those simple thank-you notes you would write as a child after birthdays and Christmas celebrations? Thank-you notes may still exist, but they are often texted, emailed, or simply typed on the computer. The joy of being honored with a hand-written “thank you” (made up of misshapen letters created by a 5 year old) next to a simple picture far outweighs the emailed “thanks.” Preparing the hand-written, thoughtful “thank you” takes time. It honors the person who gave the gift, strengthening your relationship with them.
 
How do you write a thank you note? Start by getting some postcards or half-sized stationary. Stay away from full sheets because you want to write a simple “thank-you note,” not a novel. Grab a pen, not a pencil. You want your words of gratitude and honor to last longer than pencil markings. Now, what to write…
·         Begin by greeting the giver. A simple “Dear….”
·         Express your gratitude. Simply thank them for the gift. Statements like “Thank you for the beautiful shirt” or “I really appreciate the book you gave me.” If you received a gift of money, you may want to thank them for their “generosity” rather than the specific amount–“I appreciate the generous gift you sent” or “thank you for your kindness.”
·         Say something nice about the gift and how you will use it. People like to know that you have found the gift useful or helpful. So, let them know what you like about the gift or how you will use it. You might say things like, “The sweatshirt you gave me will really keep me warm on the cool nights this fall” or “I’ve been waiting to buy a new album and your kindness will allow me to do so.”
·         Make a personal connection. If you saw them at your birthday party, let them know how much you enjoyed seeing them. If you received the gift in the mail, let them know you think about them and note a time you hope to see them in the future.
·         Wrap it up. Thank them one more time for the gift. Finish up with a closing and your name–“Thinking of You, John” or “Love, Hanna” or “Yours Truly, Kaitlyn.”
 
Pretty simple, right? Come to think of it, I have fallen behind on “thank you notes,” too. This is an art I need to practice more myself. I think I’ll go get some cards right now so I’m ready to go. Thanks for the reminder.
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