New York Etiquette Guide

Are We Raising Ungrateful Children?

Posted on Sat, Dec 24, 2011

Etiquette lesson in receiving a gift 












Alicia R. Ventresca, MA in Developmental Psychology, Columbia University

With the holidays upon us, children bring a lighthearted spirit to the season. In fact they often know just what to say to make the holidays unforgettably memorable: check out Jimmy Kimmel’s Christmas YouTube Challenge, I Gave My Kid a Terrible Present. In situations such as this, children tend to display negative emotional behavior because they do not know how to react appropriately. At the sight of a disappointing gift, for example, many children lack the mature social skills needed to control their feelings. However, by practicing proper gift exchange etiquette at home, children will be prepared to handle gift giving and receiving in a respectful, appreciative manner. 

Spread the gift of gratitude to your child with these easy-to-follow gift exchange guidelines.   

1. Before opening presents, run through Gift Exchange 101. Remember that good manners, much like mature social skills, must be learned. In preparing your child for the holidays it can be very helpful to practice proper gift exchange etiquette. So, find your child’s favorite stuffed animal (for example, Sponge Bob) and practice exchanging presents for FUN:

  • First, check to see whether Sponge Bob is busy. If so, wait patiently until he is finished. 
  • Before handing Sponge Bob the gift, thoughtfully make eye contact and smile. Because your child loves Sponge Bob, the act of gift giving will be enjoyable and fulfilling.
  • Hand Sponge Bob the gift carefully. In a clear voice say, “This is for you, Sponge Bob. I hope you like it.” For homemade gifts it is always nice to add an anecdote about where and how your child created the piece, allowing your child to take pride in a job well done.
  • Watch as Sponge Bob opens the gift and, when thanked, say, “You’re welcome. I’m so happy you like it!” This exercise quickly instills a sense of empathy in children; knowing what it feels like to be the gift giver is essential to becoming a gracious receiver.  

2.  Make your expectations clear. For example, “I know this is an exciting, action-packed time, but I expect you to behave considerately and politely. Words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are especially important because they are very meaningful so, I want to hear those words a lot.” Be sure to reiterate your expectations just before opening presents, a helpful reminder to your child.

3.  Reverse roles, allowing your child to be the gift receiver. Together, take 10-15 minutes to reflect on your life blessings. This will promote deep, positive thinking and strong social energy. 

 When Sponge Bob presents you with a gift, smile warmly and focus your attention on this special moment you are sharing. In a positive tone of voice say, “Thank you, this is so nice of you!” Keep in mind Sponge Bob worked very hard to buy you the perfect gift. He tried his best to find a gift that you like and chose this gift specially for you. Regardless of whether you like the gift, thank Sponge Bob for his thoughtfulness. Try to find an aspect of the gift that you can comment on, for example, “This tee-shirt is the coolest color green! Thank you so much.”

If you cannot thank Sponge Bob in person, call and/or write and Thank-You note ASAP. Please share and RT this article if you found it helpful and informative! 



Tags: manners for children, social skills, Etiquette Lesson, etiquette of gift-giving and receiving., best etiquette expert for children in NY