I’m a firm believer in etiquette. Writing thank you notes, saying “please may I have” instead of “I want”, offering an older person a seat in a waiting room, holding the door for the person behind you…these are things I still feel are important enough to explicitly teach them to –and expect them from–my kids. I think raising polite kids is important all year long, but I think the holidays require a special dose of etiquette prep.
For many of us, the holiday season means our children will receive gifts from friends, relatives, and perhaps Santa. Sometimes, these gifts will be things they’ve wished for and will be thrilled to open. Saying “THANK YOU, THANK YOU THANK YOU!” won’t take any prompting or remembering. Other times, however, their reaction may surprise or embarrass you. “A sweater isn’t a present! I can’t play with it!” “I already have this book!” “I don’t really play with puzzles anymore…” These responses are awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. For this reason, we practice “gift etiquette” each year around this time.
Young children often don’t come equipped with filters. They often blurt out exactly what they’re thinking without really considering how it may make someone else feel. While this can be age-appropriate, my feeling is that it never hurts to begin to teach them to consider how their words might make someone else feel. I don’t want them to lie, but I do want them to be tactful with their words. Here are the main points we discuss before the holidays to help our children remember to be gracious receivers this time of year:
- If you get something you already own as a gift, that means this person knows you so well they knew you’d like it. Say “Thank you so much! This looks really fun!” After the holidays, Mom or Dad can help you exchange it for something else or donate it to a child who wasn’t lucky enough to already own this toy.
- If you get something you really don’t like, perhaps an itchy sweater that you never want to wear, it’s fine to simply say “Thank you so much for thinking of me!” You can also say something about it that you do like, such as “I love this color blue!”
- Help your child pick out simple, inexpensive gifts (or make them!) for their family members. The goal is to teach your child how nice it feels to watch someone open something you gave them and see them enjoy it. Remind them of how happy it makes them feel when someone appreciates a gift they worked hard to pick out or make for them.
- After the holiday gift giving is over, tell your child how proud you were of their nice manners. If they did a great job remembering to say “Thank you” and be appreciative of the gifts they received, let them know. It can be really difficult for young children to practice considering the feelings of others, but it’s an important lesson for sure!