Christmas is almost upon us and with it many family gatherings, feasts and fun events.
It’s also a great time to focus on etiquette, , a great-granddaughter, is the director of the institute and a manners guru.
Help your child look as polished as the ornaments on the tree with her etiquette tips.
THE PRESENT OPENING
This can be a two minute whirlwind of ripped wrapping paper and shrieks of joy, or it can be a more civilized affair. The polite way to open presents is to do so one at a time, with attention paid to each gift and a thank you delivered each time. But that can be easier said than done. Here’s how to help your kid’s do Christmas day the polite way.
Talk about it beforehand. Before the big day have a powwow with the kids. Senning suggests something along the lines of “Christmas morning last year got really crazy, so let’s see if we can do it a different way. Let’s think of a way we can do that.” That way the child is engaged in the gift opening procedure and has a bit of ownership about it. If they feel they are a part of the new rule system, they’re more likely to follow it.
Develop a pattern. Have present opening occur in a clockwise manner or by age so that everyone knows when their turn is. Stick to the order too.
Have the kids involved in picking presents. Instead of having the children pick the present they want to open, have them pick something from under the tree for mom or dad to unwrap.
Stay engaged in the process. Feel free to prompt the kids along to pick out a gift or to pay attention as their sibling opens theirs.
Use positive reinforcement. Once so and so has opened their present (preferably in a manner that does not resemble the Hulk), let them know how good they were at doing that.
Do stockings before the big present opening. Growing up, Senning always woke up Christmas morning to her stocking at the foot of her bed. “The stockings were the thing that kept us going until it was time to go downstairs,” she said. Having stockings in the a.m. can help cool the crazy for a bit, giving you time to wake up properly before tackling Operation Present Opening.
THE BIG MEAL
At some point during the holiday season, there will be a big sit-down meal. This can be a moment where your child can shine — or really, really falter. Here’s some basic tips on how to civilize your kid in time for the big feast.
Practice, practice, practice. “You would not send a 6-year-old to play in a soccer tournament without them having practiced with some of the skills of playing soccer,” Senning said. “Well, I think of the holiday dinner like that. It’s the tournament of mealtime.” So have your child practice their manners at home, before they’re unleashed at the Christmas feast.
Pick three manners to focus on. Senning recommends having a few dinners before the holiday meal in which you focus on a few specific manners rules — such as chewing with the mouth closed, using the correct silverware or asking for things to be passed rather than reaching for them. Focusing on a few specific manners will help your child absorb the information better rather than throwing it at them all at once.
Solve the chewing problem. It’s one of the biggest eating faux pas — chewing with your mouth open. And kids love to do it. Senning suggests fixing that by using these tactics:
1. Describe eating as a gross activity. “Kid’s really don’t like to be gross,” Senning said. “Well, maybe with their friends. But generally speaking, kid’s like to be liked and to be attractive.”
2. Put a mirror in front of them so they can see exactly what they look like when they chew with their mouth open. “It works very well,” she said.
Establish why manners are important. “[Manners] really are either to keep us from grossing each other out at the table or to keep us from embarrassing ourselves,” that’s what Senning explains at her child etiquette courses. “The big thing I found with teaching kids manners is trying to make it relevant, showing them how it fits into their lives,” Senning said.
Keep at it. It can take awhile before rules sink in — so prepare for a long haul of a battle. Feel free to start small, but just stay on message and repeat the rules.
Use the golden rule. Sometimes kids need additional prodding to realize why they should use manners. Senning recommends doing a bit of role play in which you talk to your child about how they feel when people do or don’t do something, like saying thank you. Once they realize that they feel bad when people don’t thank them for something, they’ll then see the importance in saying thank you so others don’t feel the same way. It’s the whole ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ thing.
The presents have been opened and the family has gorged itself on a Christmas turkey or ham. Now comes the time for thank you notes.
“Thank you notes are a big issue,” Senning said. With that in mind, here are the rules for gratitude.
Notes are unnecessary if you thank someone in person. “If the thank you’s are given personally and with some sense of enthusiasm, that’s the nicest thank you of all,” Senning said. “If you look at Emily [Post’s] old books, it’ll say the best thank you is when you talk to the person.”
The jury is out on Skype thank yous. Let’s say you Skyped Grandma in on Christmas Day to watch your child open a present, and then had your kid say thank you on camera. While that could count as an in person thank you, Senning suggests writing a thank you note as well. “It doesn’t hurt to write a thank you note anyway,” she said. Senning suggests including something like ‘It was so much fun to have you with us on Skype’ in the note.
You must send one in all other cases — and soon. “One of the things I suggest to parents is that they establish a pattern, a tradition, a routine of doing thank you notes two days after Christmas,” Senning said. That goes for parents too. Have the entire family sit down for one giant than you note writing affair.
Get young kids involved. If little Suzy is too young to write, do the thank you note for her. But keep her involved. “Ask them what their favorite thing about the gift was and then you write that,” Senning said. Then turn the card over to the child to decorate.
Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Thank you notes don’t have to be long winded affairs. “People only need to write a couple sentences,” Senning said. “It’s literally a note expressing appreciation for a gift received.”
Give the gift of stationery. Need help on getting your kids excited about thank you notes? Have one of their presents be a cute, funky stationery set. That way you are giving them an opportunity to use something new — it’ll help you generate a bit of enthusiasm.
Toss in a photo. Snap a shot of the child with the present to include in the thank you note. “It’s a really nice addition to our ability to say thanks,”