A Great Beginning Learning good manners will help your child act toward others with respect and take into account their feelings. Your child will also gain the confidence that comes from knowing the proper thing to do. As a parent, you're sure to discover it's a gradual process. While your children will put into practice a few good manners, you'll need to remind them often of others. Start with the basics, and enjoy the journey together! January 1 How early should you start teaching manners? Parents begin teaching manners by example as soon as a child is born. While our children might do what we say, they are more likely to do what we do. First-time parents may find it shocking to hear their child spout an off-color phrase she learned from a parent. Whether we like it or not, learning usually takes place in the home, through imitation. It's a good idea to teach your child one new chore each year. If a child learns to make a bed at age three, at age four he can begin emptying the wastebaskets, and by five start to set or clear the table. Try a similar approach with manners. Teach your child a few manners--and when he's mastered those, start on a few more. Lay a foundation and begin to build on it. Expect basic manners from a five-year-old, and more from a ten-year-old. You'll be amazed how many compliments you'll get by the time your child reaches adolescence. A three-year-old should: - Establish eye contact when speaking to another. - Say hello. - Wash hands before and after a meal. - Stay seated during the meal. - Use utensils at the table. - Say "please" and "thank you." A ten-year-old should: - Be able to hold a conversation with an adult. - Use good table manners. - Answer the telephone properly and take careful messages. - Show self-control in public places. - Take responsibility for keeping the bedroom neat. - Stand when an adult enters the room. - Know how to be on time. A fifteen-year-old should: - Initiate conversation and show interest with adults. - Pick up after herself and her friends at home. - Maintain a noise level that is acceptable to the family. - Be protective and kind toward younger siblings. - Express appreciation to parents and others. January 2 There's no place like home Some families are on their best behavior when they go out but like to kick back at home. They also let this philosophy govern their manners. Sarah Ferguson, the duchess of York, once told a reporter about her formula for good manners at the table. She and her daughters have A, B, and C manners, she explained. When they're dining with the queen at Buckingham Palace, they use their very best A manners. When they're at a restaurant, they're more relaxed, so they use their B manners. And at home? They're even less proper; C manners are fine. Contrast Fergie's philosophy with pre-Civil War Eliza Farrar's. "Would it not be more refined and honest," she wrote in The Young Ladies Friend (1834), "to live a little better every day and make less a parade before company?" There may be some value in being relaxed at home, but at what cost? One of your goals as a parent is for good manners to become habits for your child. If chewing with his mouth closed is necessary when he's out but not when he's at home, chances are he won't chew properly at home or when he's out. Having different codes of manners can be confusing to your child and not very practical in the long run. It's a bit like telling a pianist that how he plays at home doesn't matter as long as he performs well at a recital. Parents can save themselves some headaches and teach children that the family deserves to see their best behavior. Here are a few ways parents can encourage children to help make home a nice place to be. Suggest that they: 1. Talk to their parents. Say "good mEberly, Sheryl is the author of '365 Manners Kids Should Know Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children Learn Etiquette', published 2001 under ISBN 9780609806371 and ISBN 0609806378.