With the holiday season upon us, it's certain our children's manners will come under the spotlight. Your son may burp too loudly at the dinner table, your daughter might refuse to hug her relatives, or your little ones may rip through their gifts without saying "thank you." The last thing you want is to receive judgmental glares from Grandma, so it's important to take some preemptive steps to avoid etiquette snafus during the holiday season. From table manners to thank-you notes, Circle of Moms members offer this etiquette primer for the holidays.
1. Set Expectations Ahead of Time
No one 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. To prepare your kids for a visit to relatives' homes, Wendy M. 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.
Amy agrees that it works best to teach table manners before family gatherings. She suggests 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."
Likewise, Ninouska D. recommends warning ahead of time that there will be consequences for improper behavior.
2. Focus on the Manners Most Important to You
Amid the holiday season's many family meals, visiting relatives, and gift exchanges lies an opportunity to teach kids the most critical of good manners. Candi focuses on teaching her kids to listen politely and not interrupt 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., on the other hand, 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." Emphasize the importance of saying "thank you" after opening gifts, and encourage your children to write thank-you notes once the holidays have passed.
5. Lead by Example
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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