Ungrateful Child? 7 Holiday Gaffes and How to Deal


It's no secret that the holidays bring together families, cheer, good food ... and sometimes, tricky behavior from our kids. Check out some common offenders, and how to deal.

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'Tis the Season

Making the holiday rounds with children can sometimes feel like herding cranky sheep. But, since you can't do holidays sans kids, you need to be on the lookout for rude kid moments to squash. No one likes an ungrateful child at Christmas or the gimmes at Hanukkah, but cheeky moments can happen despite your best efforts. Watch out for merriment-nixing behavior that could shock relatives and totally kill your holiday spirit.

The Greedy Grinch

Is there anything more blush-inducing than hearing your kid complain about a gift that she just got? Instead of being gracious, she ends up sounding like a greedy Grinch when she shows disdain for the present Grandma so carefully picked out for her. Give her a rundown before you hit the holiday parties, letting her know that she is to say thank you, even if she doesn't love the gift. If she still comes down with a case of the gimmies, send her to a quiet room and explain that her behavior is unacceptable. Then, have her head out and apologize to the offended gift-giver.

The Family Feud

On the way to the family get-together, you let it slip to your partner that you're sick and tired of your sister-in-law monopolizing every conversation. Your words were supposed to stay in the car, but your little Chatty Cathy decides to blurt out your grudge at the dinner table. Um, thanks. If you catch your child repeating your classified information, apologize quickly to the offended party and explain your point of view. Hey, it might be the perfect time to air some of those grievances you've been harboring for the past year.

The Observationalist

"Wow, Aunt Jessica got really big!" Ah, kids. You have to admit they have a way with words. Unfortunately, those blunt words can hurt feelings, especially when visiting distant relatives who aren't always around. While you can't fault your little one for telling the truth, you can quickly redirect his attention so he doesn't make anymore astute observations. Later, you can talk about how that might hurt Aunt Jessica's feelings and give him ideas for a compliment to make instead.

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The Cousin Con

You're excited for your little one to hang with her cousins ... that is, until you overhear her bossing them around or being a bully. Hasn't she heard of holiday spirit? As a parent, it's your job to step in and stop the rudeness. "You can interrupt and redirect if you hear words, tone, or even see facial expressions that express sarcasm," suggests Theresa Spinner, senior public relations for the National Association of Social Workers. "Talk to your children about your values and how you believe friends should treat one another." And, if the behavior continues, remove your tyrant tot until she agrees to play nice.

The Smart Mouth

You know the drill: Grandpa asks your child to help set the table and she shoots back a reply so scathing that it could light a yule log. Where did that come from? Resist the urge to giggle or ask, "Where did you learn to talk like that?" and face the issue head-on. Parenting author Tara Kennedy-Kline suggests a straightforward approach. In cases of a child being downright rude, stop whatever you're doing and tell your child, "That was not acceptable behavior and I'm not willing to let you treat people that way. We are going to try that again so you can show me you know how to be a good friend."

The Food Critic

You know your kid is as picky as it gets, but whining about Aunt May's creamed spinach is not acceptable—at least not at the dinner table. Before you make your holiday rounds, institute the rule of the "courtesy bite" with your little food snob. When she's offered food, she needs to take one courtesy bite and she can pass politely afterward. And, if she makes faces at the table, she can have a time-out until she's ready to try again.

The Social Gaffer

You've probably worked hard to make sure that fingers stay out of the nose, food remains in the mouth, and bodily functions stay politely in the bathroom when you're with your family over the holidays. But your little one can forget her careful training and end up digging through her nose like she's fishing through a Christmas stocking (at the table, naturally). Take a deep breath and remember that there's a difference between rude behavior and embarrassing behavior. Your child has probably forgotten in all the hubbub and just needs a quick reminder, without any fuss.

Until Next Year...

Remember, for as taxing as holidays are on you, they're pretty stressful for kids too. Sure, there are presents to be had and desserts to eat, but there's also the pinching fingers of Grandma or the loud voice of Uncle Ralph. In most cases, a reminder or a deep breath can set your child right again. And, if not, at least you have a whole year before you have to see some of the offended again!

Need a way to smooth over the holiday party hiccups? Help your child make a paper craft as a thank you to hosts and family.