The holidays are a time of gathering family and friends in an environment of high energy, excitement and presents. Put these things together and you create a situation where children often forget their manners, or the lack of usual manners is spotlighted. Keep these quick tips in mind to help your kids shine as little ladies and gentlemen.
Have realistic expectations
Whatever manners your child uses on a daily basis are those that he will use in public. If you haven’t practiced good table manners at home don’t expect your children to suddenly be little ladies and gentlemen in a restaurant. Good manners take practice. In order for your children to have great manners in public you’ll need to practice these at home. If you’ve been lax in this area, no worries! You can start today, as it’s never too late to coach your children in proper social behaviour.
Coach in advance
Children can be delightfully honest at all the wrong times. A child who receives a gift that disappoints is likely to blurt out her feelings. This isn’t done maliciously; it’s usually just blatant honesty given at the wrong time. The best way to avoid this embarrassing situation is to coach your child in advance about what to say if he doesn’t like the gift or if he already has one like it at home. Practice a few specific easy-to-remember responses and you and your child won’t be caught off-guard when Grandma’s gift is another ugly Christmas sweater.
Teach, don’t nag
In the hubbub of holiday activities it’s easy for kids to forget their “pleases and thank yous.” Avoid prodding your child with the tired old responses that embarrass everyone, “Waad-do-ya-say?” or “Where are your manners?” Instead, prompt your child by quietly whispering a reminder, “Can you say thank you for the gift?”
Make corrections privately
Parents with the best of intentions sometimes jump too quickly to chastise a child who has made a social blunder. This makes your child embarrassed and angry and is uncomfortable for the other people around you. Instead of making your comments for the public audience take your child aside for a quick, private conversation. You can salvage the situation kindly and teach for the future, as well.
Model the behaviour you’d like to see.
It’s easy for a parent to forget to use their own basic manners, like please, thank you, and excuse me, when dealing with their children. Remember your own manners, too, and teach by leading. It’s good teaching, and it makes life more pleasant for everyone. So, replace, “Go get me a towel,” with “Please get me a towel.” Your child will learn most by following your shining example.
By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution