Raising a Child With Good Manners
Age 1 to 2: Don't Expect Much
They can barely walk, talk, or remember anything that happened more than a day ago, but even young toddlers can begin to learn the basics of polite behavior. Just don't expect them to fully understand -- or practice -- what you're teaching them right now.
* Make manners part of the conversation. Thinking about other people's feelings is the root of polite behavior, so encourage your child to do this. Explain that when we help our neighbor hunt for her lost keys in the playground, she feels good and so do we. Point out how kind the cashier is at the supermarket. In fact, talking to young children about caring for others helps them absorb this value without fully understanding it, according to Marvin Berkowitz, Ph.D., a dad and a professor of character education at the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
* Take temperament into account. Some 15-month-olds are outgoing and wave hello and goodbye to everyone on the block. Others are slower to warm up and may not say hi to a soul, let alone wave. That's okay. Because of temperament differences, there's a wide variation in how kids respond to prompting.
For a toddler who isn't comfortable being the center of attention at a birthday party, being polite may mean she whispers "Thank you" into your ear and asks you to convey the message. Another option is to have her express thanks by drawing a picture and delivering it.
Keep showing your quiet child what being polite looks like: a regular pattern of "Please," "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "I'm sorry."
* Choose one rule. Throwing food, standing in the high chair, crying: 18-month-olds know how to make mealtime exciting. Their brain development isn't far enough along for them to have the motor or emotional skills for good table etiquette, so keep it simple. Really simple. Start with one rule, such as "When you're eating, you're sitting" or "No feet on the table." Repeat often.