Manners are only an extension and application of kindness. Your children can learn the magic words "please" and "thank you" soon after they're a year old. The words may sound like "peas" and "ta ta," but they represent important learning. Your children will love the words and so will you. They truly seem like magic words. They define your children as refined and considerate, and open doors to more positive child and adult relationships. Your children's learning will require a fair amount of repetition by you, but it's worth your effort.

Around age two, children can learn to wash their little hands before eating (for health as well as manners), and soon afterwards, will be able to ask to have food passed or to be excused from the table. They can even learn to say a polite "No, thank you" instead of "yuk," even if they don't like broccoli.Preschool Manners

Around age three, children are able to ask for permission to use friends' toys, go out to play, have a snack, or invite friends to their home. They'll be able to clear their place after a meal and push their chairs in at the table.

Around age four, children can learn to answer the telephone politely with "Hello, I'm David Sparks. Would you like to speak to my Daddy?" You can teach them how to answer the phone by role playing with them on a toy telephone. They're able to leave a message on your answering machine or give you a message like, "Mommy, Mr. Major would like to talk to you. He's at the front door."

To accomplish these lovely manners, you are only required to teach them the words and behaviors to use. Children will then begin to use them auto-matically. Friends and neighbors will praise in surprise at your children's re-finement, and the behaviors will thus be reinforced per-manently. What a pleasure you kids will be to all! They'll smile a lot, and their social confidence will grow. When the negative playground language they hear interferes with the language you've taught them, you'll only need to remind them that they have much better language to use. Teachers will love your kids and other nice kids will too. The kids with atrocious manners who push and shove and grab will either keep their distance or learn some nice manners from your children.

*From Raising Preschoolers by Sylvia Rimm, (Crown Publishing, 1997)

©2002 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.