Manners Matter: Thank-Yous Really Matter

Dear Mary Pat,

I have certain young family members (nieces and nephews) to whom I send carefully chosen presents every year, and every year, it’s like shipping the gifts to a black hole – I never hear how they liked the gifts or receive even a simple thank-you.

It feels as though I’ve missed the whole point of giving if I have to ask them whether they’ve received the gifts and what they thought of them. And, because they don’t send gifts to me, I don’t even have the option of thanking them and then asking them about their presents. I’ve never said anything to their parents, so I’ve only reinforced this behavior. How do I tactfully address this situation?


Thank You?

Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Dear Thank You?

This is really annoying. A gift should always be acknowledged, even by children. You don’t mention their ages, but I’m assuming they’re old enough to write a note, perhaps with parents’ help, or to pick up a phone?

My sisters and I were taught to write thank-you notes right away after receiving a gift, and it’s something I still do today. I won’t use a gift (eat it, wear it, read it, spend it, drink it) until I’ve written my thank-you note.

You shouldn’t have to chase down a thank-you, but on the other hand, you need to know that they’ve received the thoughtful gifts you’ve sent. It’s acceptable to call or text them to find out. I think it’s also acceptable to ask your siblings whether your nieces and nephews even like what you’ve sent so that you’re not wasting your time and money. Maybe you could ask for a video of them opening your gifts if you can’t give them in person. 

Handwritten thank-you notes are always so wonderful to receive, but texts and phone calls are also good ways to show appreciation. I have a niece who is a young woman of few words, and she has fill-in-the-blank thank-you cards. It makes me smile when I see her handwriting on the envelope because I know the inside contents are going to be brief, but heartfelt. 

Good luck,

Mary Pat

Miss Pat was educated at the Finnish Finishing School for Fine Ladies. Eloquent in edifying etiquette, she is fluent in seven languages, including the language of love. Mary Pat has generously extended her counsel to you and will answer any and all inquiries. Email Mary Pat at [email protected].