If you are like most moms and dads, you could use a parenting tip on how to improve the holiday manners of your children. Manners are important in any season, of course, but teaching our children to put their best foot forward during this activity-rich time of year would certainly lower most families' stress levels a notch or two.

Here are my top five "mind your manners" tips for helping children get the most out of this holiday season.

1. Practice all the time.

As you would expect, manners are a habit and as such cannot be simply paraded out of moth balls on cue. You are setting your kids and your parenting skills up for failure if you plan to arrive at a holiday gathering and expect your children to behave in ways they've never practiced. Most adults don't like that kind of surprise either!

2. Practice the specific.

If you are going to a holiday function where you know specific types of manners will be required from your children (like a formal table setting, for example), train at home first. Lay out a formal table, practice eating challenging foods, and show your kids how to make a formal introduction (don't forget training on how to shake hands).

An additional thought that goes along with this particular parenting tip is to consider the holiday clothing your children will be wearing. Is it stain-proof? Washable? Uncomfortable? Does it get in the child's way? It's really tough to listen to mom and dad and be well-mannered when your new sparkly tights are itchin' up a storm!

3. Explain what's going on.

Manners are tough to learn if no one has explained the 'why' behind the 'what'. What I have taught my kids is this; manners are simply a way to make others feel comfortable. When a person is looking out for the comfort of others, it's easy to remember to chew with your mouth closed.

Of course, some manners have developed for more complicated reasons. Still, a child who has been taught to be gracious will be appreciated whether or not he has the details of fork usage down pat.

4. Be culturally relevant.

Do you have cultural or religious traditions that you would like to pass onto your children? Most parents do. For instance, holiday manners include knowing what to do when candles are passed around at a church's Christmas Eve service. Don't wait until your family is 'on the spot' to teach the meaning behind the tradition. Your children will integrate far more if you explain upfront "why we do what we do".

5. Be fair.

Here's my favorite parenting tip pertaining to holiday manners. Don't expect more from your kids than they are ready to give. The holidays are a wonderful season and are filled with an abundance of meaningful, reflective, and memorable activities. Plan your family's holiday excursions with an eye towards age-appropriateness.

Asking a toddler to sit quietly through hours of adult festivities or demanding a teenager give up all social contact with her friends just because "it's the holidays" means you will have very uncooperative children who definitely won't be interested in "making others more comfortable".

Manners can put people at ease and allow them to enjoy their social situations relaxed and with far more pleasure. Certainly this is true when children are placed in holiday spotlights they've never experienced before.

So use this holiday parenting tip to your advantage. With some upfront practice, a few honest explanations, and age-appropriate expectations, your children can experience firsthand the richness of this holy time of year.

Author's Bio: 

Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and pick up another parenting tip today.