Kids Gone Wild? How to Teach Manners in Time for Thanksgiving

The turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and family time are a given on Thanksgiving. The variables? Your unpredictable children. As the holiday based around thankfulness and a full table approaches, consider giving your kids a crash course in manners. Visit for fun ways to encourage good behavior at Thanksgiving gatherings.

According to manners expert and consultant Thomas P. Farley, manners are a simple matter of kindness and consideration, and it's never too early for your kids to start minding their Ps and Qs. "You start with the basics: please, thank you, and sorry," says Farley. "If you instill those three things and the child really knows that those are important, you're 90 percent of the way there."

Farley shared the following tips to prepare your children (and yourself) for Thanksgiving -- and everyday -- manners.

1. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks and being grateful.

Set the tone before the meal begins, and explain the meaning of the holiday.

2. There's no reaching or grabbing.

Tell your children that it's not appropriate to reach over other peoples' plates to grab something, nor is it acceptable to stand up on their chair and reach over the table. If they need something, they should ask nicely for it to be passed. Rather than saying, "Gimme those sweet potatoes," they should try, "Aunt Josephine, could you please pass the sweet potatoes?"

3. Be polite and try everything.

Odds are kids are going to encounter something on their plate that's not to their liking. Explain to them that it's impolite to complain about what's being served. Share with them a scenario to which they can relate, like, "Think of if you did a drawing and someone said they didn't like it, wouldn't that hurt your feelings? We don't say those things. We just keep that to ourselves."

4. Don't talk with your mouth full.

Explain to your children that talking while chewing is something that should be avoided -- not only because there's a risk of choking, but also because friends and family aren't interested in seeing a chewed-food show.

5. Don't gobble your food.

A family meal is not about inhaling everything on your plate. Teach your children to enjoy their food and know that a lot of time went into preparing it. They're there for a family occasion, which is about being together as much as it is about what's being served.

6. No elbows on the table during dinner.

If there is food on the table, their elbows should not be there. But explain that having their elbows on the table before the food is there and after the food has been cleared away is acceptable.

7. Before leaving the table, ask to be excused.

Once they've finished their meal, remind kids that it's best to sit around and enjoy everybody's company. Reinforce that they should ask to be excused before leaving the table -- and that they should also volunteer to help with clearing away dishes and helping in the clean-up process, regardless of their gender.

8. No PDAs at the table.

If you have older children, don't forget to remind them that cell phones and Blackberries have no place at the table during Thanksgiving -- or any time. It's important that you follow the same rules.

9. Share your thanks in writing.

Help your child get into the habit of being thankful when Thanksgiving is over by sending a thank-you note to the host and hostess. Writing a thank-you note doesn't take that much time -- certainly far less time than it took to prepare dinner.

To learn more about Farley and manners, go to

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