'The Gift Of Good Manners'

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"Sit up straight", "say please", "share your toys," these are just a few of the many manners parents try to teach their children with varying degrees of success.

In the new book "The Gift Of Good Manners", etiquette expert Peggy Post offers up some suggestions on how to make the learning process a little easier for both parents and children. She visits The Early Show to talk about it.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One:

Building the Foundations

At some point -- usually between six and twelve weeks -- your baby will look at you and smile. As days and weeks go by, she will learn to greet you with expressions of both recognition and pleasure. These are among her earliest forays into the parent-child relationship. She is learning to trust you and to depend on your presence in her life. As she wakes to the world, her trust in you forms the bedrock for all her experiences to come.

Over her first twelve months, your baby will acquire an astonishing array of physical and mental skills, progressing from an almost totally reactive being who responds instinctively to physical stimuli (an empty tummy, a wet diaper, a sudden noise) to one who makes deliberate choices. She will begin to master her body and start to manipulate her environment -- grasping objects she wants, for example. She will learn to distinguish her primary caregivers and cling to them. Around five or six months, she will become delightfully sociable. She will begin to sense herself as a separate being and learn to recognize her name. She will be driven to explore by her limitless curiosity. From birth to twelve months, a baby is an incredibly busy little person.

You're the Model

You will not actively teach the principles or guidelines of etiquette for several years to come. But from the day she is born, you will be helping your child build her foundations for life. As babies develop, they increasingly learn through imitation. What you do will provide the example of how people act and interact. By your example and with the introduction of a few limits in the second half of your child's first year, you begin to establish patterns that will eventually translate into appropriate manners, conduct, and concern for the well-being of others.

By meeting your baby's physical and safety needs and giving her the fullness of your affection and attention, you are establishing trust and love -- the two great pillars of teaching and learning. Whatever the form of your nuclear family -- two parents, single parent, grandparents or other guardian as principal caregiver, adoptive or blended family -- you are the central figure in your infant's life and will be for many years. With your love and attention now, your child will be well on her way to becoming a loving, attentive, and considerate member of the human race.

Visits and Gifts

Because hospital stays after an uncomplicated birth are as short as a day or two, it's fairly easy to put off visitors until you return home. The problem with the early homecoming is that a postpartum mother often feels far from well yet, and both mother and father are coping with their new duties. Hopefully, family and friends will be both sensible and sensitive.

Most people will phone before coming to visit. If you are not up to receiving guests, you can explain and suggest alternative days and times. If people drop by unexpectedly, you can't turn them away, but you can set some limits. ("Gosh, it is good to see you. We just got the baby to sleep about twenty minutes ago. Let's visit for a while, but if she doesn't wake before you leave, we can plan another time." Your friend will get your message.)

Young Visitors

Young children or any child who is ill should not visit a home with a newborn. If friends call in advance, you can head off a problem. ("We'd love to have little Charlie over, too, but our pediatrician insists that the baby shouldn't be around other children for a few weeks yet. Tell Charlie that we'll miss him this time.") If parents with young children show up unannounced, your best tactic is to put your baby in her room or yours immediately. Your uninvited guests may think you're being overly protective, but as long as you are polite, they will have no reason to complain.

The foregoing is excerpted from "Emily Post's The Gift of Good Manners" by Peggy Post & Cindy Post Senning, ED.D.. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

The book is divided into six sections, based on age, from birth through the high school years. In each chapter, manners and teaching methods are geared to children's capabilities during those years. Each section of "The Gift Of Good Manners is divided into five chapters that deal with core manners topics including:

  • Values and ethics: For each age: how to model and teach the values you want to instill in your child-from empathy and truthfulness to sportsmanship and self-discipline.
  • Respect for self and others: One of the fundamental principles of etiquette. The Posts explain its importance and how to teach it at any age, including building relationships with siblings, peers, family members, coaches and teachers; sharing; good sportsmanship; care of personal property, and taking responsibility for chores.
  • Spoken and written communications: The art of conversation, listening and speaking skills, introductions, on the telephone, e-mail, writing letters and thank-you notes-the importance of the learning to be a good communicator.
  • Table manners: from the mechanics of eating to the social aspects of dining, an age-by-age guide for teaching manners at the table.
  • Out and about: For any situation outside the home: restaurant outings, in the car, on the school bus, attending parties, introductions, shopping, going to a friend's house or the library. Everything you need to know to teach your child to handle these situations.

About the Authors:

Peggy Post is the author of ten etiquette books, including "Emily Post's Etiquette" and "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." She writes monthly columns in Parents and Good Housekeeping magazines and is the etiquette expert at WeddingChannel.com. She also contributes weekly etiquette quizzes to ivillage.com.

Cindy Post Senning holds a doctorate in education and is a former elementary school principal, teacher and registered nurse. She is also director of The Emily Post Institute. She has spent years in the classroom, as a teacher, school nurse and health educator, reaching children in grades K-12. She developed and directed the Maternal Child Health Program for Vermont Home Health & Hospice and has taught childbirth classes as well expectant parents classes for more than seven years. Currently, Cindy is a consultant with the Vermont chapter of the Foundation for Excellent Schools, which teams with local schools to improve programs for all students.