Get your kids ready for the holidays with these easy reminders.

The holiday season is a fun time for kids. They’re seeing family, getting presents and going to school parties—all times when good manners are important.

“For kids, learning manners may feel like they just have more rules to follow,” says Sharon Rau, RN, community educator at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “We need to teach them that good manners are about respect and that good manners make you and people around you feel comfortable.”

The Gift of “Thank You”

When kids are given gifts, it’s easy for them to get excited and forget their manners. But receiving gifts can also be a manners minefield. A loved one may give your child something he already has or doesn’t like. Or, your child might get something and not know what it is. No matter what, teach him to say “thank you” and smile when he opens any gift, Rau says.

“Very young kids learn best by doing,” Rau says. “Before the holidays, play some role-playing games with them. Tell them ‘I have a gift for you,’ then wait for them to respond. Help them come up with things to say if they already have the gift or don’t like it.”

If your child isn’t in front of the giver when she opens the gift, she should write a thank-you note right away, Rau says. If she finds writing hard, Rau suggests taking a picture of her with the gift. Have her write a simple note that you can send with the picture.

“Thank-you notes are still important in this electronic age,” Rau says. “A handwritten thank-you note can mean so much to the gift-giver.”

Nice to Meet You

At holiday events, kids often meet relatives or family friends they don’t know or see very much.

“Tell kids to look the person in the eyes and smile when they meet someone,” Rau says. “A friendly greeting is a skill that will go a long way. It’s also just polite.”

Time to Eat

“Family meals have gotten more casual,” Rau says. “So it may be hard for kids to remember their manners when they’re around other people. It’s important to teach basic table manners, even if you’re going to a casual party.”

Some of Rau’s top table manner tips include:

  • Ask someone to pass an item. Don’t reach over his plate to get it.
  • Ask to be excused before leaving the table.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • No elbows on the table.
  • No talking or laughing with food in your mouth.
  • Wait to eat until everyone has food.

“Practice getting a napkin and putting it in your lap before eating,” Rau says. “Also, if kids need to cough or sneeze, teach them to turn away from the table or ask to be excused for a moment.”

Phones Off, Please

Older kids especially like to be on their phones. Tell them to turn phones off or put them away at the table. The same goes for tablets, such as iPads or Kindles.

“The holidays are for family time,” Rau says. “Encourage children to talk to their grandmothers, aunts or friends. Tell them it’s rude to focus on their phones.”

Emily Post, the expert on polite behavior, once said that manners are a way of showing that you are aware of how other people feel. Once kids learn that, good behavior will just come naturally.

Need help encouraging your child to change his behavior? Call 314.454.KIDS (5437) and press “3” to schedule a “Beyond ‘Because I Said So’” parent presentation for private groups of 15 or more.


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