Good manners can be taught at an early age. "When your child is about 15-18 months, they're going to start understanding basic concepts of gratitude," says O'Brien. "They're going to understand that Mom and Dad do things for them that make them happy, but that's about it."
Basic manners begin with you - the parent! Teaching by example is a great way to show your kids how to behave. "The biggest thing is, use the words 'please' and 'thank you' all the time in conversation," says O'Brien. She also suggests insisting that your child use these words too to help reinforce the behavior. Keep in mind that children mimic everything you say; that's how they learned to talk. The same goes for teaching them proper manners.
But manners extend far beyond the use of "please" and "thank you". Generosity comes into play too. If you are cleaning out your closet or going through the old stuff in your garage, explain to your children what you're doing. Tell them that you're going to give some of the things away to people who don't have enough, and suggest that they pitch in too by choosing some of their old toys to donate.
Also, when a child receives a birthday gift or a special treat from Grandma, teach them to write thank you notes. Just because your child is too little to spell doesn't mean they can't express their gratitude for something they've been given. "When they're really young, it might just be a scribble attached to a thank you note that you write," says O'Brien. "But as they get older, they can draw pictures, they can write more elaborate notes."
But even if you have the most polite child on the block, there are times that you need to put your foot down and say "no". "If a child is constantly hearing 'yes', how will they ever learn to understand gratitude?" says O'Brien. If your son or daughter is constantly getting what they ask for, they will never truly appreciate what they have.
For more information on teaching your children to be polite, as well as other parenting topics, click here to visit the American Baby website.
By Erin Petrun