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How can I teach my growing child appropriate manners?

Any parent who’s ever stammered blushing apologies for their child’s rude behavior knows that manners are important for even the youngest children.  And the lessons your kids learn from you about behaving politely will follow him through his social interactions later in life.   Follow my treasured tips on how to raise a well-mannered child – your kid will be dinner party-ready in no time!

~ Discipline your toddler in a way that directly relates to helping her understand and fix what she's done wrong. If your child throws a toy, ask her to pick it up, or confiscate it. If she rips up a book, have her help tape it up or do not replace it. When responding to your child’s tantrums or other behavior you want her to change, don’t confuse "discipline" and "punishment." Discipline is about helping your child learn right from wrong, guiding her missteps, and praising her efforts and success.

~ Serve formal meals at home each month just for the family and have your child practice exaggerated table manners. Make it fun by using cloth napkins, dressing up, having a family member pretend to be a waiter, acting like dignified ladies and gentlemen, and serving unusual food (or the same food but with a fancy name).

~ Practice the "yucky food" situation:  If your child's eating over at a friend’s house, explain to her that it’s best to say, "No thank you, " when something she doesn’t like is served, or to accept a small portion and leave it on her plate. (Of course, she could look for the family pets as well!)

~ Offer continual, gentle reminders about saying please, thank you, and excuse me. Rephrase your child’s demands into more polite requests.

~ Practice with your child using a polite tone when making a request and remind her of the polite way to ask for something. Inform her that you will not respond to whining, screaming, or demands.

~ If your child is rude to you or others, do not laugh, as this only serves to reinforce the bad behavior.

~ Avoid embarrassing your child by reprimanding her in public or in front of guests. Talk with her briefly in private and calmly but firmly tell her that if her manners do not improve, she will have to leave.

~ Give your child plenty of time to improve. When she’s tired, in adult company for a long time, or in an unfamiliar situation, remembering everything can be too challenging.

~ You need to show your children that you use good manners - even when you go shopping they will pick up on how you treat the salesperson or the person at McDonald’s. Kids also listen to you talk on the phone and will imitate what you say.


~ Work on only one or two table manners at a time. Once your child has mastered them, sprinkle in some new ones.

~ If you don’t teach manners at regular meals at home, don’t expect your child to suddenly develop them when you dine out. Make regular mealtimes practice runs for more formal dinners.

~ Come up with one-word reminders, such as "elbow" as a signal for your child to take hers off the table, or "napkin" as a reminder to wipe her face. Or better yet, come up with a secret "family-only" code word that signals to your child to take elbows off the table, etc.

~ If your child talks with food in her mouth, remind her that not only is it disgusting to watch but you cannot hear what she says with a full mouth.

~ Sit with your toddler during mealtimes to cut down on food flinging and smearing behavior.


~ Send fun postcards. They require less work for your child as well as less postage. Include a photograph of your child wearing or playing with the gift as part of the note.

~ Trace your child’s hand on construction paper, and cut it out to make the perfect thank-you note card. Grandparents and relatives can then look forward to the increased size of the note each year.

~ When your child receives a gift, make it a rule that she must draw or write a thank-you note as soon as she is old enough to do so. If you find yourself with a recalcitrant, protesting child on your hands, hold onto the gift until the note goes out or return the gift if no note is sent.


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