So often your advice is so right on, but your recent response to “New England Nana” compels me to take you to task – you dogged it with the answer.
First, her letter:
Here’s a fun suggestion for grandmothers who are upset about teens not writing thank-you notes. If you want to hear from a teen, try this:
Send a card and write inside, “Happy Birthday! Please buy something fun or something you need with the enclosed check. Love you, Grandma.”
THEN FORGET TO ENCLOSE THE CHECK.
You will hear from that teen, I promise.
“New England Nana”
You are a shrewd and witty lady. I’m sure my readers will love that suggestion. I know I did!
Abby, you and “Nana” are wrong, wrong, wrong.
Because what “Nana” is suggesting – and what you’re condoning – is a scenario in which sure, Grandma will hear from the teen.
But only because she forgot to enclose the check:
Grandma (answering phone): Hello?
Teen (bored): Grandma, you forgot my check.
Grandma: Why, honey, how nice of you to call!
Teen: Just do a direct deposit in my checking account, OK? Bye.
And what has the ungrateful teen learned at this point? Only that Grandma is getting forgetful.
The teen has learned nothing about good manners, specifically, that every gift should be acknowledged, every time, with a note, preferably handwritten, but typed is OK. Or at the very least, via email, if Grandma is Internet savvy.
I’m especially disappointed with your response, Abby, because you are such a proponent of thank-you notes. In fact, you’ve used your column on numerous occasions to commiserate with people who bemoan the relatives and friends who don’t send them:
“When a gift or a check isn’t acknowledged, the (unwritten) message it sends is that the item wasn’t appreciated, which is insulting and hurtful.”
You go on to say,
“Chief among the reasons that thank-you notes are unwritten is that many people don’t know what to say. They think the message has to be long and flowery when, in fact, keeping it short and to the point is more effective.”
But this lack, you say, can be remedied for just $7 (U.S. funds, check or money order) for your booklet, “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” which:
“Contains samples of thank-you letters for birthday gifts, shower gifts and wedding gifts, as well as those that arrive around holiday time…With the holiday season approaching, this is the perfect time to reply with a handwritten letter, note or well-written email.”
You concluded that column with,
“Because the composition of letters is not always effectively taught in the schools, my booklet can serve as a helpful tutorial, one that is valuable for parents as a way to teach their children to write using proper etiquette.”
Now, this last presupposes that the parents are, in fact, teaching their children proper etiquette.
Which begs the question, did “Nana” teach her son or daughter to write thank-you notes? If not, then she can hardly expect him or her to teach her grandchildren, can she?
Abby, your solution of making thank-you notes easy by offering templates for them is one option.
Stop sending the ingrates gifts.
To “Nana” and all the others who lovingly shop for, wrap and give gifts; shop for cards and lovingly enclose checks; and then wait, while days and then weeks pass, for an acknowledgement that never comes…
If that ungrateful teen or other relative, friend, or whomever, didn’t acknowledge your last gift, accept that they aren’t going to change their behavior, but you can change yours.
And by continuing to give gifts, you’re actually reinforcing their bad behavior.
Do them, and yourself, a favor:
And if they wonder why good ole Grandma wasn’t good for a graduation gift…
Let ’em wonder.