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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Dear Parent,

I’m writing to say thank you for teaching your child to write thank you notes. You’ve obviously figured out what too many other parents have not, mainly that a vital element in a student’s education and growth involves gratitude.

It’s funny, too, because so many parents are looking for any sort of edge to help their kids get ahead. I once spoke to a mom who said that she specifically gave her daughter a funky/unusual spelling in her otherwise-common name so it would “make her stand out and give her an advantage.”

I bit my tongue instead of saying what I wanted to say: Shouldn’t it be up to your daughter to actually do something to gain an advantage, other than spelling her name G-e-o-r-d-y-n?

You, however, realize that when Lindsey – or Lyndzee – writes a thank you note, she immediately stands out from the pack of students who rarely, if ever, express appreciation and gratitude. And people notice.

Sure, most of us teach our kids to say thank you, but often it’s simply a case of parroting. “Say thank you, Jesika.” And Jesika repeats it. I appreciate that you’ve gone the extra step, however, and actually have taught your young student what the words mean.

And, in the process, your child will understand the power of gratitude. She’ll be miles ahead of the parrots for these three reasons:

One, a student who understands appreciation doesn’t walk through life with a sense of entitlement. Instead, she recognizes the work-reward equation. You’ll never receive a thank you card from someone who expects everything on a platter.

Two, she’s figured out that success in life usually involves the cooperation of others. The world is becoming more socially-based than ever, and the best way to develop strong relationships is by acknowledging others. Lone wolves don’t thrive very often.

And three, showing gratitude takes time, something that stands out in a shortcut world. A hand-written card requires putting away your phone and focusing on strengthening a personal connection. The mere act of composing a unique, sincere note elevates a student above the masses who might – might – hastily send a digital message.

Too often we think of a student’s education simply in terms of math, reading, and science. You, however, have provided a remarkable advantage in your child’s education by helping him mature in other ways, including his character. In fact, we probably should call them character notes instead of thank you notes.

Adults – meaning future employers – do notice. Let me give you a quick example.

Recently I was asked to help interview high school seniors for a college scholarship program, one that would provide all of the funding these young people would need if they wanted to pursue their academic dreams.

Most of the kids had no other source of funding: no athletic scholarship, no rich grandparent, nothing. Of the thousands of students who’d submitted an application and passed the first round of cuts, these few survivors were invited into a small room, dressed in their finest clothes, to answer questions and to try their best to not hiccup or sweat.

I interviewed eight high school seniors that day, each of whom was charming and deserving. And yet two in particular struck me as exceptional in a way I couldn’t put my finger on. Call it an intangible; they just gave off a particularly mature vibe. Something told me that they really had their act together and, whether they received the generous scholarships or not, would certainly succeed in life.

Less than a week later I received thank you cards in the mail from two of the eight students. You can guess which two. Isn’t it interesting that their maturity and character was evident even before the mail arrived?

Because you’re the parent of a similarly exceptional student, please accept my sincerest thanks for grooming a terrific future leader. Well done.


Dom Testa

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty two years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people embrace the idea that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to raise thankful children.

Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.