Q.: Karen, my children are in grade school and I wonder what I should expect of them as far as good manners are concerned. Do you have any advice?
A.: Teaching children good manners starts at a very young age. Even toddlers can understand the importance of “please” and “thank you,” and that is where it starts. It also is important for your children to see their parents exhibit good manners. They learn a lot from how adults behave, both good and bad.
Here are the things I think children should be able to do by the time they are in grade school. By the time your child is 6 or 7 years old he or she should be able to demonstrate the basics of good manners. Those basics include:
•Introducing themselves. The easiest way to do that is to say, “Hello my name is_____.” First and last names should be given.
•Introducing others. They should start with simple introductions of friends and parents. The oldest or most important person's name is said first.
•Making good eye contact in conversation. Eye contact is very important and can be a challenge for children, but encouraging it will help them get comfortable with looking people in the eye.
•Shaking hands with children and adults. The handshake is the universal way to greet people. Developing a good, firm handshake will help children be confident as they mature.
•Writing a thank-you note. Saying thank you is very important when children receive gifts or when someone has done something nice for them. Handwritten notes never go out of style.
•Understanding the importance of being kind and what that means.
•Using “please” and “thank you” without any prompting.
•Good table manners are very important. Make a point of sitting down at a tech-free table a couple of times a week to teach and encourage good table manners. If children never have a knife and fork in their hands, it's hard to become savvy with table manners.
•Make polite conversation with children and adults. Children can learn at an early age how to make small talk and be interested in others.
The holidays are a perfect time to reinforce so many of the basics in good manners since there are many opportunities to practice the things listed above.