"Thank You! It's Just What I Wanted!" How to Teach Kids Good Gift-Getting Manners

I think I was a pretty polite kid. My parents instilled the whole please-and-thank-you thing in my head at a young age. So I’m sure they were shocked and mortified one Christmas way back when, when I opened a present from my Uncle Harvey and instantly blurted out "Books! Not again!!" To this day -- 27 years or so later -- I am still embarrassed about what an ungrateful little stinker I was. I don’t want my two boys to sound like that -- ever, but especially on Christmas. Needless to say, I’m trying my best to help avoid this giant gift-getting gaffe with my kids. Here's what I'll be doing before the weekend, with these tips from Dr. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist and parenting expert.

Practice being polite. My kids regularly say please and thank you and you'd think that would be enough, but in the excitement of gift getting-palooza, it isn't. I'll give my son a heads up that he'll be getting gifts from a slew of relatives, and all will be excited to give him something. I'm going to remind him that he should say 'thank you' when he opens a gift no matter what it is. 

Model the right behavior. When you open a gift, be aware of the words that you use, says Duffy, since your kids are watching. Say thank you and highlight something specific that you like about the gift. One of the easiest ways to teach kids is to set a good example. 

Slow down the chaos. "The day often becomes an exercise in unwrapping, and sometimes discarding, without giving thought to what it was you opened," says Dr. Duffy. "Slowing down the process is perhaps the most effective means to draw gratitude from kids. My family and I open gifts one at a time, talk about each for a moment, express gratitude right then and there. It's so much better than firing through gift opening like a race."

Help them feel lucky. This weekend I asked my almost-five-year-old son to slip a few bills in the Salvation Army donation bucket. Then we talked about how the money would benefit people who aren't as lucky as we are -- it would go toward warm clothes, good food and even some Christmas presents this year.

Write it down. When my sister and I were kids, there was always a batch of Thank You cards in our stockings. And every New Year's Eve, we’'d sit on the floor and write notes to our grandparents, aunts and uncles and whomever else gave us a gift that season. I remember that tradition more than most of the gifts that I received. Even if your kids can't write, have them draw a picture and be clear that you're giving thanks for the thoughtful gift that they received.

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