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Writing thank-you notes are a part of children's money skills

All the gifts have been played with, the candy has been eaten, and the decorations are put away. How about the thank-you notes?

If you're still nagging your kids to write notes to Grandma and Grandpa or a favorite aunt or uncle, don't give up.

Most kids I know are as inclined to put pen to paper as they are to vacuum a collection of dust bunnies under their bed. I also know parents have a lot on their plates and may not feel like pressing their children to write thank yous.

But requiring your kids to pen a note or tap out an e-mail is worth a little extra nagging. It sends children a message about the importance of expressing gratitude to a gift giver, and it's a way to teach reciprocity and good manners.

Author Joline Godfrey, in her new book Raising Financially Fit Kids, considers gratitude one of the basic money skills that kids need to master to become successful, secure adults.

What does she mean by money skills?

"If kids think they are entitled to presents, just because it's their birthday or a holiday of gift-giving, they won't connect giving thanks with receiving gifts," Godfrey writes. "In the mind of an entitled child, these are not gifts in the real sense of the word, but loot."

She said children who don't learn to properly express gratitude will probably repeat the mistake later in life, possibly when the stakes are higher.

"Whether appreciation for a job well done or an acknowledgment of a fair exchange, kids who grow up with a more complex appreciation for giving and receiving will have a healthier attitude about money in general," Godfrey writes.

Even though the holidays are over and the kids are back to school, it's not too late to express thanks for gifts. Notes needn't be long, but make sure that they're personalized and that there's a specific mention of the gift.

Our family occasionally will resort to e-mail, with the kids on the keyboard. (Remember, gift givers, even if the message is sent electronically or is tardy, it's the thought that counts, so don't be angry.)

There are other approaches you can take. One parent I know refuses to let her kids spend any gift money until they've written a note of thanks. To make the task fun, many parents also let their kids hop on the computer and design thank-you cards.

Besides holidays and birthdays, there are plenty of other opportunities to teach your kids gratitude or to reciprocate an act of kindness.

If your child is invited to accompany another child on a trip or to a movie, for example, provide your son or daughter with extra money and suggest treating the host family to pizza, ice cream or soft drinks.

You also can use moments like this to talk to your kids about giving and receiving and how these situations play out whether they're on the playground, at the movies or in the workplace.

Kids, however, can get into some sticky situations if they go overboard on kind gestures, especially when it involves constantly giving money to a friend who is short on funds or buying someone gifts as a way to buy friendship. That's when parents may need to step in and provide some guidance.

As in any good learning experience, parents need to set good examples. Remember, the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.


Here are some suggested books for teaching kids good manners on everything from thank-you notes to using utensils properly.

+ Be The Best You Can Be: A Guide to Etiquette and Self-Improvement for Children and Teens, by Robin Thompson.

+ 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette, by Sheryl Eberly.

+ Oops! The Manners Guide for Girls, by Nancy Holyoke.

Source: Joline Godfrey, author of "Raising Financially Fit Kids"