Teaching kids manners for special occasions. This is an image of a young girl feasting.

Kids, Manners, and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time we set aside each year to step back and count our blessings. This is a lot easier to do when our kids use manners! I recently met with a mom in the seattle area for parent coaching; she asked a great question: “How do I teach manners?” She shared she had read a blog that modeling is the best way to teach manners. She took the words right out of my mouth! But I also added.

  1. Praise (when warranted) and give choices. Praising your child when they use their manners is also a great way to guide them. Catch your child doing it correctly, and they will actually increase doing the behavior that is being praised. It is so fun to practice this at home for one week. Give choices instead of commands for saying “hello”, “goodbye” or other manners. Here is an example:A Parent and child walk into Aunt Cindy’s house for Thanksgiving. Hugs are exchanged between adults and then all attention is on the child.Parent: “Bobby, do you want to give a hug or say hello to Aunt Cindy?”Child: “Hug” Child hugs aunt.Parent: “Good decision!”

    For children who are a bit shy, the above scene could be stressful. Be sure to offer choices that will be easy for your child. Such as “Do you want to give your eyes to Aunt Cindy or give her a high five?”

    You could even say, “Do you want to say hello or have me say it for you?”  This is good for kids who freeze under pressure.

    Here is a handout to help you deal with the “what ifs” when using the tool of choices.

  2. Practice. Many times children don’t use their manners because there has been little experience using them. Many families don’t pass food around in a typical “family meal style” so when big family meals happen, they simply don’t know how. Take some time leading up to Thanksgiving Day, practicing the key manners you want your child to use. Here are some examples:
    • Saying “Hello/Goodbye”
    • Saying “Thank you”
    • Passing food to another person at the table.
    • Taking turns talking at the table.

    Be sure you make the practice fun. It is very important your child gets a “sweet” taste in their mouth from manners. It will be soooo much easier than telling and yelling!

  3. Give strategic attention. Kids need their parent’s attention about 1 minute per year old. For example:  If you have a 4 year old, give them positive attention every 4 minutes. It is a simple as saying, “I like how tall you made your tower” or “I like how many colors you are using to make your picture”

The key is to give the attention on your terms and consistently – or mark my words, they will DEMAND your attention and it will not be positive.

Here is another great resource from Love and Logic.

One thought on “Kids, Manners, and Thanksgiving”

  1. Liann, Thanks for this timely post! We're hosting this year, but will have some people in our home that our children (and we) have never met before… extended, extended family. This gives us a few days to brush up on some skills and have some intentional dialogue before the big day! I appreciate you!

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