Life Advice



Adult Sons Have Forgotten Childhood Lesson

Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin on

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have two sons in their 30s who were taught at a young age to say thank you, and were encouraged to write thank-you notes to the senders of gifts they received. We modeled gratitude in our behavior, as well.

Fast-forward to the past few years. They have both moved many states away, so gift-giving is remote and we are rarely present when gifts are received. Sadly for us, we get no acknowledgment or any form of a thank-you.

In every other way, they are loving, caring people. Whenever we receive a gift or card from them, we promptly thank them, whether verbally or in writing.

We're really at a loss for what to do. We give gifts with an open hand and have no expectations that they will like the gifts, or even keep them. I honestly don't feel we're giving just to get recognition. Saying something to them about this issue might be misconstrued as us asking for a thank-you, rather than a request to look at the broader issue of being grateful for others' thoughtfulness.

The real issue is that it pains us to think that they are equally ungrateful to others; I would like to encourage them to be grateful in all ways to all people.

Do you have a suggestion for broaching this subject in a loving and nonjudgmental way?


GENTLE READER: Yes: Feedback.

Miss Manners would prefer to frame this issue in terms of gratitude and empathy, but that tends to make people's eyes roll or glaze. Yet they understand feedback, and feel that it would be rude to ignore the self-advertisements of people they have never even met. A photograph of someone's lunch prompts more politeness than -- well, actual presents from people they profess to love.

So please tell your sons that you expect feedback, and that they might remember what form you expect that to take. Hint: not emojis.

You are not helping by claiming to be nonjudgmental and not caring on your own behalf. It is a just judgment to declare that generosity and gratitude are a paired couple, and one must inspire the other, even in regard to parents.


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