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May I share some tips for good manners with you?

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Good manners are necessary for people to live together and get along in this world. They are a great way to instill values of kindness and respect in your children, values that will last a lifetime and which the world seems to need nowadays more than ever. Using them can also help a child be more confident in new social situations as they get older.

If you want your child to learn to practice good manners, I have some suggestions:

Start early, and be consistent. Even before a child may be able to speak, teaching them to wave hello and goodbye is a form of learning the proper way to greet someone.

Teach children to say the magic words “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me” by making sure to use them regularly yourself. Encourage your children to use those words at a family meal when good table manners, as well as polite words, can be used and practiced. A toddler before the age of 2 may not grasp what being polite is all about but will note the positive response and feedback they get when they give or receive these words of politeness.

Be patient in teaching your children manners and politeness. Hearing “please” and “thank you” may not come immediately, but with patience and consistent usage of these terms it will.

How to properly greet others is a great social skill to instill in your older toddler and preschooler. Asking a child to see what color someone’s eyes are is a great way for them to look at a person. Practicing responses to “How are you?” can also help build confidence when that question is asked by someone they don’t know that you are introducing them to.

Preparing your child to use good manners in advance is a great strategy with older children, such as an expectation in visiting the home of a friend that they will help clear the table or use polite language and thank the hosts.

Speaking of reinforcement, praise your children’s use of manners when words or behaviors just occur naturally without your having to prompt them, and that will go a long way to reinforcing good manners.

Hopefully, tips like these in a manner of fact way will help you help your children learn to enjoy and benefit from practicing good manners.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and NBC5.

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