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Bad Gifts, Good Manners

Austin Smith of West Linn, OR, loves Harry Potter, so his mom bought him a striped scarf like the boy wizard's. But when the 8-year-old opened the present, he tossed it aside, saying it didn't look exactly like the one from the movie—and his mom realized he needed a refresher in how to act gracious when given a gift.

It can be hurtful when your child doesn't like what you've bought him—and embarrassing when he acts disappointed with presents from friends or family. Kids don't automatically know how to accept gifts graciously, but at this age, they can learn. To help:

1. Rehearse polite responses to disappointing gifts with him before holiday get-togethers. Try: "Thank you for this, Aunt Rosie. That was so nice of you!" Your child doesn't have to say he likes the present—he just needs to acknowledge the gesture.

2. Tell him not to compare his gift to anyone else's. He needs to know he can't shout "I wanted that!" if another child receives something he would have preferred.

3. Focus on holiday giving, suggests Robyn Freedman Spizman, author of "The Giftionary". Involve him in choosing gifts, and have him hand them out to relatives. That will show him the thoughtfulness and effort that goes into selecting presents and maybe make him more appreciative of those he gets (even the not-so-great ones).

If, despite your best efforts, your child blurts out "I already have this" or "I didn't want a sweater," don't overreact. Remind your child to thank the gift-giver, then talk again with him later about his manners.

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