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Sentinel Digital Desk

Children learn the quickest, so it's always important to teach our little ones how to have good manners and etiquette from this time. If our children learn something well and keep practicing it, they will probably continue to have the same well-mannered demeanor as they age. So how should we go about it?

We can teach our children proper etiquette by modeling good manners and providing positive reinforcement.Teaching our children manners will serve them in so many ways as they grow into adulthood. Sometimes we parents do not realize that we can begin teaching manners to our little ones they are merely toddlers. Modeling and repetition can go a long way towards instilling the benefits of manners to children. The earlier we are able to start etiquette instruction to our children, the faster they will learn. Of course, if they are already teenagers, it is not too late. We can instruct children at any age.

We have to start it all by doing something ourselves which is not too easy--we need to set a good example and be consistent with our behavior every day. Small children can be taught to say "please" and "thank you". If we are going to expect our little ones to be polite and respectful, we really need to start modeling these behaviors when we speak to them and to other members of the family. We then have to help them remember to use these words with others. If someone gives them a compliment or a gift, prompt them to say "thank you". Even if they are too young to write a thank you note, we can have them sit beside us while we write one and tell the what we are writing and why writing a thank you note is important. Once they start school, we need to let them do the writing and not worry about how their handwriting looks at this point. The point is to encourage them to do this on their own.

Manners encompass so many areas of life. Once our children have matured enough to answer the telephone, we should incorporate telephone etiquette into their life and teach them specific statements to say. Once they can read, we might want to leave a card next to the telephone with simple statements to which they can refer. If they answer the phone for us and we are not available to talk at the moment, they might say, "I'm sorry. She can't come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?" If they can write, we could have them write the person's name and phone number down. If they can't write yet, instructing them to tell us or another adult the message immediately before they forget it works well.Because we parents are role models, there really are no better teachers for our children than us. We need to look for opportunities to let our children witness our polite manners and behavior. These opportunities may occur at home, at our job, at their school, in a restaurant, at a grocery store, and on the phone. Basically, we can and we should model good behavior virtually everywhere we go.

Of course, teaching our children table manners is extremely important. It is important to teach them several aspects of good table etiquette, including not talking with food in their mouth, staying seated, asking to be excused from the table, placing the napkin in their lap, not reaching across someone for food or condiments, and saying "please" and " thank you" when asking for and receiving various dishes.

If your child is a guest in someone else's home, manners are just as important. When they are about to leave that person's company, we should ask them to thank the hosts for their hospitality.

We need to remember to use positive reinforcement whenever possible. If we witness our children modeling good manners, be sure and praise them for their behavior. If we notice a friend or other family members exhibiting good manners, complimenting them or pointing out the appropriate behavior to our child works wonders.

Just as it is important to use positive reinforcement, we should also not nag our children about their lack of manners. As they enter into adolescence, subsequent arguments over their poor etiquette could result in a power struggle or a war of wills. Our lessons and instructions to our children should be given as a matter-of-fact approach.

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