Straight Talk Advice

Dec 07, 2011

Generous Aunt gets no thanks

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Each year I give my niece and nephew an expensive gift of something they want or need. I often include money. If I'm there for the holidays, they say thank you but I have never once received a thank-you letter. I know young people are busy, but really? Too busy to spend 15 minutes? The kids are now 17 and 19. I'm disappointed that my brother and his wife never made them write thank-you letters. (I've not received email thank-yous either.) Though I've never complained, ingratitude is such a poor trait. Should I send them anything this year? I'd appreciate your guidance. — Maureen, Monterey, Calif.

Katie 18, Auburn, Calif. Ask me a question

The last time I wrote thank-yous, I was five and my parents forced me. Now I don't have time, but I make a point to call relatives to thank them for any cards, gifts or money. But no “thank-you” whatsoever? That's discouraging. I would stop buying them expensive gifts.

Christina 19, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

Guilty as charged! My mom has told me to write thank-yous, but I am lazy about it. The few times I actually did, I never had the addresses! If I have the person's email, I might send a thanks that way. Suggestion: Attach a note asking how they enjoyed their gifts.

Taylor 14, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

What you describe is normal. People don't have time and many don't know better. My mom made me write thank-yous when I was younger, but I usually don't anymore. For a grandparent, I might send a quick thanks via email.

Peter 24, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

I consider myself a polite person, but nobody told me about thank-you letters until I was almost an adult! That said, I ALWAYS call or thank people in person.

Catherine 24, Amherst, Mass. Ask me a question

I've never written a thank-you letter in my life and only know one person who does. It's not something I was taught and it always struck me as odd.

Carrie 17, Los Angeles Ask me a question

I always forget! After many forgotten thank-yous, one aunt sat me down and called me “ungrateful.” When I tried to explain that I just forget, she said to “stop complaining.” Now I dread getting her gifts.

Ryann 15, Tustin, Calif. Ask me a question

Christmas is a time for giving. Let that be your reward.

Liva 22, Santa Barbara, Calif. Ask me a question

I was terrible about writing thank-you letters. Nonetheless, every year my parents INSISTED upon them — even if it was March! My father still checks to see if I've sent them and now the answer is always yes because I've discovered that expressing gratitude makes me feel good! I actually enjoy writing them.

Regarding gifts, at 18, most of my relatives began sending cards instead. I wasn't offended and your niece and nephew shouldn't be either.

Gregg 20, Los Angeles Ask me a question

I dreaded presents from relatives because I knew I would have to write thank-you letters. Every year, my mom was a stickler about them — and still is! Her efforts paid off just this year. Now I'm all for thank-you cards! The amount of time and energy to write a note is nothing compared to the gift-giver's contribution. A note of appreciation is the nicest thing you can do in return — and it's the right thing.

DEAR MAUREEN: Most hover parents clearly aren't hovering over the traditional thank-you letter! How sad. Gratitude is linked to human happiness and should be fostered at every opportunity. You have been a model of unconditional love. I say if you can continue giving with no expectations, do so. Otherwise, rather than feel resentment, scale back. 

Parents: Instilling a “gratitude habit” has benefits to one's soul life on par with how bodies benefit from, say, fresh vegetables. Consider enforcing a sit-down, thank-you letter ritual as part of your holiday structure.

Editor's Note: And enforce it you must or it won't happen! Like Gregg and Liva's parents, I've was (and still am) a stickler for thank-you cards with my four kids. And voila, light bulbs went off for them around age 20 also. The process is effortful, but it's a brilliant service for your kids. I'm also a stickler about writing by hand. It's good for the brain and even rough handwriting has a human aesthetic lacking in email. According to Miss Manners, notepaper and envelope are the proper tools. No need for a commercialized "thank-you" card — apparently, you're to think of these magic words on your own!

On the subject of gratitude, I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to all our faithful readers. There are 40 million teens and emerging adults in the U.S., many with serious issues around binge-drinking, body image, cutting, online porn, cyber-bullying and more — things they don't always talk to parents about. Our youth writers have a way of peeling back the veil so that teens listen and parents learn. It's an honor to work with them and all of you.

Straight Talk TNT is now a non-profit 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization (status pending) and we are relying on grants and donations to keep the column going. If you like reading us each week, please donate today here on our website through our secure server or send check to Straight Talk TNT, POB 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628. No donation is too small. All contributions are tax deductible. —With Love and Thanks, Lauren

  1. By Cathleen Dunham, age , from Elk Grove on 12/10/2011

    Intuitively I’ve taught respect and graditude since toddlerhood. Recently my son hand delivered a hand written thank you for a job interview. He feels it was appreciated. I’m cried hearing some responses and relieved to hear Liva and Gregg and Lauren’s understanding of the importance as one grows into maturity.

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  2. By Joss, age , from Monterey, CA on 12/12/2011

    Writing thank-you cards has been ingrained in my head ever since I was little. My mom has insisted on them from both my brother and me, no matter the occasion. For Christmas every year, my mom continues to give us a box of thank-you cards every year under the tree. Sometimes it has felt tedious over the years, but now I find myself wondering if that one friend that I shipped that one gift to even got it because I never heard anything. Wouldn’t a thank-you note from her have been nice?

    I have found that if I am questioning gratitude or mindset, it is best just to approach the person and ask them about it- they may be clueless as to how they are coming across to you!

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  3. By Auntie Em, age , from San Francisco, CA on 12/13/2011

    OK, I get it, thank-you notes are for old people. But, as one of those old people, I believe in their power—-to make other people feel good, to show appreciation, and even sometimes to further your own cause. For example, if someone sends me a thank you note, I am likely to invite that person again, or send a nice present next time. No thank you note?  I’m not sure if the gift arrived, and am hesitant to spend money again if it is not getting there. 
    And “I don’t have time”? Come on…in this age of Twitter, Facebook, email, cell phones, Skype, text messaging, and even e-cards, who doesn’t have time to say, “Thanks, Auntie Em, for that great trip to Paris; I loved going to the museums with you and eating chocolate croissants.”  That’s all it takes.

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