Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

December 20, 2012

Be polite about gifts, even those ugly socks

Expressing gratitude is important, sure. But not wrinkling your nose when you open a hideous pair of brightly patterned, itchy socks on Christmas morning is important, too. We want our children to be grateful, but they also need to know how to be polite.

So we asked Daniel Post Senning, a spokesman for the Emily Post Institute, how to coach little ones to not show disappointment when they open a present they don't like and what is acceptable these days in terms of acknowledging gifts.

"The situations and circumstances of our lives change, and the ways that we express, show or share [gratitude] may change, but a good high-quality thank-you is still a fundamental part of etiquette," Senning said.

Senning says parents need to teach children how to receive every gift — even the ugly socks — with the same spirit and thought that it was given.

"Let them know that's part of the expectations," Senning said. "You can always say thank you for something, for thinking of you, or the thought behind the gift. Prepare them for the possibility ahead of time and be clear with the expectations."

A warm, spoken thank-you is perfectly acceptable on its own, Senning said, but a written thank-you note is always a nice added touch. If your child is not able to thank someone personally, she should send a handwritten thank-you note (with help, depending on her age).

Thank-you notes by email or text message are better than no acknowledgment of a gift, Senning said, but a written note is preferable.

"The medium is the message," Senning said.

"A more traditional handwritten note takes more time, more preparation, more thought. The more import you want to give the thanks, the more you want to think about the medium of the message."

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