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Dear Richard Madeley: 'How can I persuade my grandchildren to show us a little gratitude?'

Richard Madeley
Dear Richard Madeley: 'How can I persuade my grandchildren to show us a little gratitude?' Credit: Rii Schroer/Kaja Merle

Dear Richard

I have three step-grandchildren, to whom my husband and I send £50 for each birthday and Christmas. We never get any acknowledgement or thanks from them or their parents.

I understood how busy their parents were when they were little but they are teenagers now. We seldom see the children, and when invited to our house they arrive so late that we don't get much time to socialise.

I'm really tempted to send less! I know it's mean but I'm fed up of paying over the odds. What do you think?

Margaret, Lincs

Richard Madeley Credit:  Rii Schroer

Dear Margaret

Shakespeare had this sort of thing down cold, didn't he? How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless (grand)child! All right, this might not be quite on the same scale as King Lear, but I empathise with your frustration. I bet most readers will, too.

The problem is, you're in a catch-22 situation. If you gently upbraid these teenagers (or their parents) for their rudeness - failing to acknowledge your generosity with so much as a phone call, text or email (heaven forfend they should actually post you a handwritten thank-you card!) - any belated responses in future will seem intrinsically grudging; meaningless and hollow.

On the other hand, if you just keep posting those cheques into a bottomless pit of ingratitude, you're going to end up grinding your teeth down to the gums in increasingly angry resentment. What to do?

Step back with me a little from the situation, Margaret. Let's ask ourselves this question: what is the primary role of grandparents? Most would agree it is to support, advise, guide, and inform.

I think the duty has fallen to you of educating your teenage grandchildren about the importance of good manners - and the consequences of cavalierly ignoring them.

Write to them. Say you hope they've enjoyed spending the Christmas and birthday money you've sent them up to now, but as you've never received any acknowledgement, you presume the money is actually surplus to their needs. Explain you'll continue to send cards in future, but there will be no further cheques.

Harsh counsel? Perhaps - although some would describe it as tough love. This trio need to be made to face a timeless truth: good manners cost you nothing; bad manners can cost you a lot. In the long term, I think grasping that will be worth a great deal more to them than the odd £50 from you. Just don't expect them to thank you for it.

Richard Madeley's column is published on telegraph.co.uk every Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 11am