Friday, June 6, 2014

The importance of saying thanks and why I make my child write thank you notes

Little Miss M recently made her First Holy Communion. This was a huge accomplishment for my little girl. She went to class once a week, she memorized songs and stories, she began to understood what faith means and to actually form questions and thoughts about her personal belief system. She also sat quietly and appropriately through an entire mass without her father or I close at hand, and she did so while wearing a poofy dress and fancy shoes. It was remarkable. It was worthy of celebration, but this was not my first rodeo and I knew I was already pushing the limits of what my dear girl would be able to withstand. So when deciding to do a party, we scheduled it two weeks later and it was a success! She was showered with gifts and enjoyed every minute of it.

Then it came time to write the thank-you notes. If the child could have thrown bricks at my head, she probably would have! We talked about the importance of saying thank you to people, especially when they give you so many nice gifts. She understood the importance but handwriting is a huge struggle. This task was seemingly insurmountable. She needed to send eighteen thank-you notes. How long to do you think this took?

It took two weeks to complete. I withheld her iPad and computer  usage for the entire time until they were done. This could have been traumatic for multiple reasons. Her iPad is her comfort, her teacher and her motivator. I know this and I use this power sparingly. Most people would probably let this task slide, deeming it unimportant. I felt there was a life lesson that I could teach Little Miss M in a very tangible way. She had a task to do. She had to write thank-you notes for gifts that she received. The list was made. The notes were set-up. All she had to do was add her words.

Little Miss M learned about consequences and rewards. She learned a little about prioritizing and time management. Little Miss M learned that I wasn't budging, even if she fake cried about her fatigue. I must admit, before you judge me as being too harsh, Little Miss M was allowed to watch a movie while working on the notes, but all tangible electronics were withheld.

I learned about limits and about how to structure necessary activities for Little Miss M. I also learned a little bit more about the power technology holds over my very impressionable daughter. I learned that in order to understand how autism effects my girl, I need to push the limits and boundaries once in awhile.

I wish I had captured the look on her face yesterday when she checked off the final name, or when she saw all the notes put into their corresponding envelopes and stacked up. She looked so accomplished and pleased. The task was draining and daunting and I will be looking for new ways to help Little Miss M express her gratitude in the future. For now I am proud of her and I know the recipients of her notes will understand what went into their production.

At one point during this exercise, Little Miss M did ask, "Isn't there an app for this?" I just smiled and encouraged her to keep writing. It was awfully nice for me to see my girl unplugged during iPad hour, though I know how much good the device is doing for her!

How do you get your children to say thank you? Do you believe in thank-you notes? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Amanda can attribute her need to produce thank-you notes to her own mother who would even write a thank-you note for a thank-you note!

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