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Peggy Post's Guide to Modern Manners: What to Do if Your Grandkids Don't Say "Thank You"

Your trickiest etiquette questions answered.

Question: We give our grandchildren, ages 13 and 16, generous gifts for Christmas. The problem is we never receive thank-you notes. Should we talk to our son about it? What's the best way to handle this?

Answer: I hear about this problem frequently. There are several ways to encourage younger generations to understand the value and importance of writing thank-you notes. One friend of mine who never received notes sent her nephew her usual check for one of his birthdays—but intentionally didn't sign it. When her nephew called to let her know her "mistake," my friend had the perfect opportunity to chat with him about the importance of thank-you notes. He never missed sending a note after that!

Certainly, speak with your son—and possibly your daughter-in-law too—about your concern. This is a good first step, but be careful not to chastise them. Do let the parents know that you plan to talk to the kids, saying something like: "We know that Sam and Andrew are grateful for the gifts we give them, but we feel that it's important that they express it with a thank-you note. We want to let you know that we plan to speak with them about it."

If the parents balk, you'll have to decide how far you want to push the issue. Talk with them and point out the benefits of establishing a thank-you-note habit. If the parents refuse to acknowledge your request, you'll have to decide if you're willing to stop giving gifts to make a point. Lobby for a thank-you phone call or e-mail before giving up. Ultimately, this isn't worth a family rift. Take the long view and look for future opportunities to show your grandchildren the value of thank-you notes.

If you talk to your grandchildren, stick to the positives. Ask them if they have ever received a thank-you note and how did it made them feel? Also see if they've ever given someone a gift, or done a favor, without being thanked. Tell them how good it makes you feel to receive thank-you notes, and that each note is an important way to express gratitude. Writing thank-you notes is also an important part of getting a job, applying to college, and advancing in a career. And as a last practical point say, "Andrew, when I send you a gift in the mail, I won't know you've received it unless I hear from you."

You could also take your grandchildren shopping for age-appropriate note cards and stamps (or purchase and send to them). Write a thank-you note with them, and give them ideas about how and what to write.

If you're regularly online, encourage the kids to communicate with you via e-mail to express thanks that way, too. A handwritten note is best, but it's important to start somewhere.

Got a tricky etiquette dilemma? Send your questions to Peggy Post

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