The waiting is finally over. Children around the world are getting ready to open those holiday presents they’ve eagerly been waiting for. But with all the fun and excitement that comes with finding out what’s inside those wrapped boxes, it’s also a terrific opportunity to train children how to receive gifts graciously – even if they don’t necessarily love what they’ve just opened.
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide, says these very important lessons aren’t just good during the holidays, but will stick with your kids to show appreciation throughout the year.
Schweitzer’s advice for teaching kids to receive holiday gifts graciously:
– Set an Example: Research suggests that merely talking about graciousness, saying ‘thank you,’ and being considerate of others isn’t nearly as effective as demonstrating the behavior we want our children to emulate. As our children grow up, take every opportunity to demonstrate graciousness by saying ‘thank you’ and ‘thanks,’ so they learn to mimic us. Remember, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
– Teach your kids to say ‘thank you’ even if they don’t like the gift: You know the look a child can get on his face when he opens that box and inside is something that wasn’t on his Christmas list. Sadness, confusion, anger and tears usually follow, and it also hurts the person who gave the gift. Teach your kids that there are going to be times they receive a gift they don’t necessarily love, but they must still show appreciation and thank the person who gave it to them.
– Train them starting between 4-7 years of age: As I said above, kids may not adore every gift they receive. However, it’s important for them to express appreciation. Start training kiddos as early as the age of four, and emphasize manners through the age of seven years old and beyond. This is a crucial stage in child development for setting the stage for a lifetime of good manners.
– Encourage authenticity: Visiting with our children about expectations of gratitude and thankfulness encourages dialogue. We all recognize that too much coaching has unintended consequences. When guiding young ones, authenticity is crucial. Encourage them to use their own words like “awesome blossom” so their response is automatic and reflects genuineness.
– Cute cues: Some parents agree on subtle cues in advance, a wink, an ear tug, or a cough, to trigger well-mannered responses from kiddos who forget. Prompting them with “Thanks, Nana!” and “thank you, grandpa” is important for reinforcing this lifelong habit.
– Understanding thank you: Helping kids understand the meaning behind different expressions of gratitude, is a more effective strategy. Explain to your child that thanking someone represents your appreciation for the time spent thinking of you or doing something for you. With that perspective, no matter what the gift is, their gratitude will be genuine every time.
Schweitzer says gratitude is a blessing, so share the wealth this holiday season, and your kids will learn to spread it all throughout the year.