How do we encourage/enforce good manners over the holidays with family — whether it's receiving grandma's sweater and trying auntie's oyster casserole, for instance?

Parent advice:

Remind your children beforehand that giving gifts makes the gift-giver feel good. Tell your children to help the gift-giver feel good by smiling when opening the gift and saying "thank you" with happiness in his/her voice, even if it is something that they're not happy about. Regarding food, most parents know their child's tastes. If you anticipate fickleness, serve a tablespoon onto his/her plate and remind before dinner that he/she must try one bite. (Most chefs accept dislikes by children, but don't appreciate a huge quantity going to waste.) If your child is offered more, teach your child to respond "no, thank you" or "I don't care for any more right now, but I really like the turkey." — Paula Glenn

It's not OK to ask kids to lie, so it is best to teach them to try and find something they do like about a dish. For instance, while they may not like fruitcake, they may like how all those candied fruits make the cake look so colorful. — Janet Oak

My children were picky eaters and still are. One boy was especially vocal about it and complained loudly at holiday family events. I told him he didn't have to eat everything, but I didn't want to hear about it. If there isn't whining, I say, "Mission accomplished." — Marie Grass Amenta

Expert advice:

"Children must be taught that everyday manners and Sunday/holiday manners are synonymous," said Lori Weiner, co-author of "Good Manners Are Contagious" (Spinner Press, $15).

"Raising a child with good manners does not happen by accident. It takes time, patience, repetition and, ultimately, a conscientious parental role model."

Be aware of the messages your child picks up from your comments or your body language. "Has your child heard you snicker under your breath that your least favorite aunt, Brenda, is coming to holiday dinner?" Weiner said. "Your child is listening to everything you say, especially the things you don't want him to hear."

To prepare for gift exchanging, Weiner suggests rehearsing hypothetical situations in which you teach specific responses and name names so your child is really ready. "You know, Uncle Jared may give you a gift you don't like, but remember to say thank you and give him a hug," for example.

"Teaching specific skills gives your child the confidence to handle difficult situations," Weiner said. To head off awkwardness, if gift giving is customary in your family, offer children's wish lists in advance. "It is up to parents to make appropriate price-range boundaries for gifts and to promise each other to stay within that range," Weiner said.

Whether around the tree or the table, if there's a verbal slip-up, Weiner said, "quietly remove your child from the situation. Using a calm voice, explain, 'Your comments were very hurtful to Uncle Jared. It is never OK to hurt someone's feelings.'" Ensure that he makes a sincere apology to Uncle Jared.

On a proactive note, involve your child in the spirit of the holiday. By including him in shopping for gifts for others, for example, "he will take on more responsibility and buy into becoming personally accountable for the holiday outcome."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.