Courteous Kindergartners: Ages 5-6
These children love to show off their good manners in school, but they're not always as well-behaved at home after a long day. They have a tendency to fall apart under pressure: for instance, at Thanksgiving dinner or when meeting your boss.
WHAT TO WORK ON
Looking adults in the eye and responding when spoken to. These are essential social skills, Eberly says, but even the most confident kids have a tendency to duck their head and mumble when speaking to a grown-up. Turn it into a game by asking your child to check the color of a person's eyes and report back to you. Then practice meeting and greeting. Demonstrate how to shake hands firmly and repeat back the person's name: "Hello, Mrs. Fisher."
Not interrupting. The good news is that 5- and 6-year-olds finally have the ability to wait for their turn to talk, says Jodi Stoner, Ph.D., a clinical psychotherapist and coauthor of Good Manners Are Contagious. You just have to teach them. Come up with a secret word or sign, or try a wink, that you'll use to remind your kid to wait when you're talking to someone. Role-play outside the heat of the moment to help him recognize when he's interrupting. When he does wait patiently, make sure he gets your attention soon. "Don't make him wait so long that it's disrespectful to him," Dr. Stoner says. "A child this age can't sit tight for more than five minutes -- especially if he's waiting for you to be done with his sibling. Make sure you show him you notice by glancing over at him with a smile that says you acknowledge he's doing the right thing."
More sophisticated table manners. Start enforcing more nuanced etiquette, such as no elbows on the table and saying "please pass" instead of reaching. Children this age care about how they compare with their friends and classmates, so point out good-manners moments: "Check out the way Julian put his napkin in his lap without being reminded."