Teaching Children Holiday Manners is a Year-Round Job

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
December 21, 2016

Whether receiving gifts, greeting relatives or passing food, children are expected to have excellent manners during the holidays. However, the excitement of the season and being around unfamiliar people can make it difficult.

Rebecca Meitler is an instructor at K-State’s School of Family Studies and Human Services. She says practice is the key to developing good table manners.      

“I encourage families to make it a game at mealtimes before they’re expected to do it at a mealtime with people they’re unfamiliar with,” said Meitler. “So, pass something back and forth between the two of you or your family and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and make it fun and silly.”

To make greetings easier, Meitler recommends preparing children ahead of time by talking about the people they’re going to see and how they would know them. 

“Because lots of times families haven’t seen extended family for months, and for young children that’s a really long time,” Meitler said. “So being really specific in who those people are and when’s the last time they saw them, helps the children feel more confident in saying hello and doing those greetings we expect when we think about manners.”

Meitler says the manners we see from children this holiday season will be a reflection of what they’ve already been learning and practicing.

“It is a year-round job and teaching opportunity and really thinking more about how we’re modeling this for our children outside of Christmas time,” she said,  “So then at family gatherings and social gathering with friends, that is second nature to the children; they’ve learned that skill already.”

Even with practice, children may feel overwhelmed at holiday gatherings and forget their manners. In those cases, be supportive, sit close to them, ask if they’re feeling nervous and acknowledge that it takes courage to speak up in front of so many people.