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WebMD Parenting Expert: Are Good Manners a Thing of the Past?

"These kids today! When I was growing up, we were taught good manners!"

Have you caught yourself grumbling something like this lately? It seems that every generation of parents bemoans the behavior of the latest generation of kids. So how can you make sure that your little ones use their best manners -- whether you're around or not?

In WebMD's online discussion about Healthy Family Routines, guest expert Tanya Altmann, MD urges parents to start by minding their own manners. Remember, kids are always listening -- not just when we speak to them, but to other adults, as well. If you grumble about the driver who just took your parking spot, or are rude to the clerk at the store, your kids will pick up your bad manners.

Altmann recommends that parents practice saying "please" and "thank you" with their kids from a young age. Start with "please" and end with "thank you" every time you ask your child to do something. Praise your kids' use of good manners. And instead of criticizing when they don't behave so well, show them what they should be doing.

Altmann says the rules shouldn't always be cast in stone. You can allow time at home for your children to be silly at the dinner table, or to eat with their fingers. Just make sure they understand it's an occasional thing, and for home only.

A mom raised in a military home says that she's more relaxed than her parents were. She doesn't require "sir" and "ma'am" at all times. But she does expect basic good manners from her kids. To make sure her children are toeing the line, even away from home, she talks periodically to teachers, friends' parents, and even nearby storeowners. But she says that setting an example is the most powerful teaching tool. By holding doors for others, or allowing other people to go ahead of her in line, she shows her children how to be gracious.

What are your thoughts and suggestions? How do you instill good manners in your children?

Discussion led by Tanya Altmann, MD Guest Expert
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Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP, is a best-selling author, a working mother, and a UCLA-trained pediatrician, practicing in Southern California.

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