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Good manners are important skills for all of us to acquire. Knowing how to behave in a variety of social situations makes us feel more comfortable and that comfort frees us to enjoy and learn from experiences.

Kids need good manners just like the rest of us. They encounter social situations that are awkward for them, just like adults do. Kids get the same kind of comfort that adults get from knowing what fork to use and how to excuse themselves from a conversation. So, how do we help our children learn manners?

Perhaps the best way to teach children manners is to model good manners for them. Starting with the very basics, teach children to say, “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. Use these words when you talk to your children. By doing so, you will not only be modeling good manners, but respect as well. Manners are a way of communicating respect, so teaching children to query and respond respectfully will increase their likelihood of receiving a favorable and respectful response.

Greeting elders and responding to elders with the terms “sir” and “ma’am” seems to have fallen out of style. Yet, children who are taught to do this never fail to get noticed. Using these terms when addressing elders communicates respect for them. Children who are respectful will receive respect.

Teach children to excuse themselves. The words “excuse me” have a number of uses. “Pardon me” is also a useful phrase to teach children. These phrases should be used when you must pass in front of someone, when you must leave or interrupt a conversation, when you bump or nudge someone and when you would like to get by someone and doing so requires them to move. There are a number of other times that these phrases are appropriate, but getting kids comfortable with the basic uses will be a good start.

Beyond modeling these behaviors, you must teach them, require their use and remind children of them. Eventually, they will become habit and need only occasional reinforcement.

To teach children good manners at the table in a fun way, schedule a sit down, “fancy” dinner as often as possible. Show children how to set the table, many cookbooks include this information. Try to have a salad course and main course. This gives you the opportunity to use more than one fork per place setting. Teach them to use silverware from the outside of the setting and work their way in for each course. Teach them how to ask for food to be passed to them, to place their napkin in their lap and how to hold their utensils. Remember that this is supposed to be fun and not a drill so keep the mood light. As their skill progresses, have them plan the meal and serve it as well.

Perhaps one of the forgotten manners is the thank you note. Thank you notes let the giver of a gift or the host or hostess of a party know that you appreciated the energy and thoughtfulness that they extended to you. When a gift has been sent to you from someone at a distance, a thank you note lets the giver know that you received the gift. These kinds of thanks are a courtesy that should be encouraged. Children learn gratitude when they are taught to send thank you notes.

Knowing just the very basic manners will help children to communicate respect, feel comfortable in new social settings and extricate themselves from uncomfortable situations without offending anyone. In return, they will be shown courtesy and respect. Isn’t this what treating others as you would like to be treated is all about?