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Miss Manners: Motivating kids to express thanks

By Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin Andrews McMeel Syndication

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Would it be appropriate, when sending cash or checks to children for birthdays and holidays, to enclose a stamped, addressed envelope and card so that the children would find it easier to express thanks for the gift?

The children in question are 10, 13 and 15, and I am their great-uncle. They are remarkable children, poised and well-mannered – except that they never thank me (or, presumably, others) for these little gifts.

I’ve mentioned this to their mother, my niece, but her reply is that she can urge them to respond, but cannot force them to.

I admit it irks me to never receive acknowledgment of my gifts, but more than that, I think it’s important to teach children the value of gratitude and this elementary form of etiquette.

GENTLE READER: Whose job is it, if not a parent’s, to force their children to do things that they do not want to do? It’s called child-rearing.

Miss Manners also finds it amusing that you deem the only thing unmotivated children are lacking is a stamp. Ask anyone hosting a wedding how that system has worked out.

The obvious and most effective solution would be to discontinue these monetary presents – or at least to wait to give them sporadically in person. When you do so, you might slip in, “I am sorry that this is late for your birthday, but I am never sure that when I send it through the mail, you are receiving it. And I have no way of knowing if you liked getting it.” If this does not motivate them to write future thank-you letters, surely greed will.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it OK to text my boss and co-worker with a pic and an announcement of my new granddaughter?

GENTLE READER: Only if you are similarly prepared to get unsolicited texts back and to answer them with appropriate gushing. Can’t you just tell people?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have a loose agreement with my niece as tenant in our basement apartment. When she moved in, she signed a list of rules that mostly covered safety issues.

Over the course of three years, she said several times that she plans to move out soon, but hasn’t left. We have been neutral to her about it.

Although it was not in the agreement to be neat, her messiness may invite unwanted critters. We don’t want to hurt her feelings, but we would now like for her to find another place to live. How can we encourage her to move out without hurting her feelings?

GENTLE READER: Leave the real estate section lying around? Surprise her by sending in an exterminator?

However, as it is your niece, it requires more diplomacy. “We feel that we have let the apartment go a bit since you have been here, and as you have often expressed the desire to move out, we want to take some time to get it ready for new tenants. We would be happy to help you find a new place.”

In the meantime, it seems to Miss Manners that unwanted critters would rightfully be under the heading of safety. You might add it to this and any future agreements.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,

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