With the holiday season upon us, it's certain our children's manners will come under the spotlight– as when Grandma glares across the table after your nine-year-old burps loudly. Or when the relatives are gathered around the tree and your kids rip through gifts without a thank you. Circle of Moms member Deangela D. speaks for many of her peers when she says it’s important to take major preemptive steps to avoid etiquette snafus during the holiday season: "The way to really enjoy your kids is to teach them how to treat other people," she says.
Parents looking to keep their holiday gatherings merry will appreciate some tried-and-true strategies for teaching kids good holiday manners – before the clan is seated around the holiday table. From table manners to 'thank you' notes, Circle of Moms members offer this etiquette primer for the holidays.
1. Set Expectations Ahead Of Time
Noone wants the relatives to conclude that their child is a brat, and many Circle of Moms members say that the best way to preempt this is to stop bad manners before they start by establishing rules for behavior and good manners ahead of time. "Setting expectations is important," says Wendy M. To prepare your kids for a visit to relatives' homes she suggests telling your children in advance that they must be relatively quiet and remain in their seats and that "they will be expected to behave." If they've been prepared beforehand, she explains, "a reprimand for acting out won't be a surprise." And don't forget to praise them "for a job well done" if they are well behaved.
A mom of four named Amy agrees that it works best to teach table manners before family gatherings. Her children like to clown around at the dinner table, so she "manner coaches" them pre-holiday gatherings, explaining to them that at other people's houses there are more limits: "You have to stay in your seat, sitting, not standing or sliding under. No yelling, respect others, and there is prayer time before the meal."
Ninouska D., a mom of five, recommends warning ahead of time that there will be consequences for improper behavior. "Tell your kids that you will be taking away things that are special to them if they don’t behave during family gatherings," she recommends.
2. Focus on the Manners Most Important to You
Amid the holiday season's many family meals, visiting relatives, and gift exchanges, Candi H., Lexi T. and others see opportunities for teaching kids what they see as the most critical of good manners.
Candi focuses on teaching her kids to listen politely and on not interrupting when others are speaking.
Daphe J. works hard to train her kids about gift acceptance etiquette, specifically by saying thank you for each one received.
Lexi wants her children to learn to be respectful to all those visiting adult relatives. "Disrespect is just not tolerated in my home. We do not allow children to address adults by their first name unless some sort of title is used first (Mr., Miss, Mrs., Coach, etc.)," she says.
3. Offer Incentives and Disincentives
Moms sometimes have to be creative to coax or inspire good manners. Amber B. offers incentives for good holiday behavior, a proven tactic she borrowed from her mom. "My mother was strict about us having impeccable table manners," she explains. "However, on Sunday nights we were allowed to watch TV while eating dinner. Perhaps if you have one or two nights a week where your children can have fun (a carpet picnic, watching TV) and they know they can just be themselves, then maybe it will be easier to enforce the table manners on the rest of the days."
Kathryn J. has created a "swear/fart jar" to keep her kids from belching and swearing at the dinner table (or anywhere for that matter). "If anyone uses a slang/swear word, money is paid in the jar. If anyone farts anywhere other than in the bathroom, then they pay too," she says.
4. Teach Gratitude
There’s nothing more cringe inducing to in-laws than seeing kids who are old enough to know better ripping up gifts and tossing them aside without saying thank you, says a mom named Toni. She is vigilant about teaching her children to be thankful for the gifts given them at the holidays. "Learning to say 'please,' 'thank you,' 'excuse me,' and 'sorry' are incredibly important," she says. Mary R. agrees, and focuses on teaching her kids to show gratitude in writing: "I'm huge on 'thank you' cards," she explains. (For more on teaching gratitude, see How to Teach a Child About Being Grateful.)
5. Lead By Example
Finally, if you want your kids to behave, it's critical to be a good role model. "Your children learn from you," says Kim W. "If you show that you are grateful, then the act will pass itself along to your children." As an example, she suggests making sure your children see that you always say 'thank you' and 'you're welcome' to others.
What are your family's rules for good holiday manners?
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