Fun Ways to Improve Manners for All Ages
Make a list of table manners: putting a napkin on your lap, using your utensils, eating with your mouth closed. When one of your kids performs a polite dinner act she gets a ticket. Whoever gets the most wins an extra story before bedtime.
The "Off-Duty" Dinner
Promise your kid that if he uses good manners for a set number of days, you'll have a silly dinner. He can put his elbows on the table, talk with his mouth full, and eat with his hands. He'll think it's a blast, but it will also show him why manners are so important.
Once in a while, set the table with real china and goblets with stems (get plastic ones for the littlest ones). Turn the lights down and put candles on the table. The kids will love it so much, they won't mind being on their best behavior.
Wrap up a bunch of mundane stuff from around the house, then have your child open each and practice saying something good about it. ("Thank you so much for this box of tissues. It's my favorite color, and it sure will come in handy!")
THANK-YOU NOTES THROUGH THE AGES
Ages 0-1 You'll write it for your child. Make sure you include at least one sentence about how she's using the present or why she likes it.
Ages 2-3 You still write it but use your kid's voice if it doesn't seem forced. Let him dictate, and give details about why he likes it. Then have him draw a picture and "sign" at the bottom, even if it's only a scribble.
Ages 4-5 Try a fill-in-the-blank note: "Thank you for the ________. It's _______." Then you write one more sentence about what she likes about the gift, making sure she signs her name at the end.
Ages 6-8 Your kid should write the entire note, and it should have at least two sentences: "Thank you for the ________. I like it because ________."
Originally published in the November 2011 issue of Parents magazine.