5 Ways to Teach Manners to Preschoolers

Best Behavior: Eat at the Table

Staying in his seat for more than a few minutes (especially with no television or toys) can be tough for any kid. But most 3-year-olds should be able to sit at the table for about 15 minutes, says Dr. Stoner. If that seems like a challenge, aim for ten and work your way up. It's important for your child to realize that dinnertime is family time.

Make it Happen: Set up a consistent routine that cuts down on distractions and conflicts. A few tips: Avoid any juice or snacks right before mealtime to ensure that your child is hungry; insist that food be eaten only at the table; let him help set the table each night, and consider giving him a sticker as a reward when he does well. Family meals are also an opportunity to model other table manners, Dr. Stoner adds. Keep your cell phone off the table. Put your napkin in your lap, and chew with your mouth closed. It may take a while to change old habits, but imagine all the civilized meals in your future.

Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Parents magazine.

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