How To Raise a Well-Mannered Child

The simplest way to step up your etiquette: Use those oft-neglected magic words as frequently and as early as possible. “From the very first diaper you change, you should be saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” notes Leah Ingram, aka “The Manners Mom,” author of The Everything Etiquette Book (Adams Media, 2005). Mealtime provides ample opportunity for demonstrating appropriate etiquette as well, adds Lisa Taylor Richey, president of the American Academy of Etiquette.

“Sit down as a family often,” she advises. “This is where your child not only learns table manners, but conversation skills—as well as your values.” “By age 2, toddlers want to imitate the things you do,” says Karp. That’s a good time to explain why your behavior is important and prompt your child to follow suit. “When you tell someone ‘thank you,’ point it out to your toddler,” advises Richey. “When someone pays your toddler a compliment, remind him to say ‘thank you.’” Using dollplay can be helpful, too. “You can say, ‘This is how we ask for something’ or ‘This is how we play with others,’” Karp explains.

Celebrate successes

As your child starts demonstrating good behavior, plenty of praise is in order. “The fi rst time your toddler says ‘thank you’ without being reminded, make a big deal out of it,” says Richey. The intensity of the praise should be pretty high, especially when they’re younger, says Karp. “You can clap and say, ‘Yay! Everybody look what Dana did!’” he explains.

Another technique Karp recommends: gossiping, wherein you describe what your toddler did well to a nearby toy or to someone on the phone. “Your toddler believes what he overhears more than what you say directly to him,” Karp notes. “This technique makes praise about fi ve times more powerful.” Diversion and discipline Perhaps the most challenging part of parenting a toddler is fi guring out how to constructively stop tantrums, outbursts and other unruly or embarrassing behavior.