Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Parents Should Teach Children Manners Early

DEAR HARRIETTE: The situation "Tightrope" faced as a visitor with her two little boys in the home of a friend got me thinking. I have been in the shoes of the hostess mentioned -- she had to constantly be on guard when young children were present who had not been properly trained how to behave with other people's belongings. It is miserable for all involved.

At home is the place to start when toddlers first set out to explore. It is important to lovingly and consistently reinforce what is acceptable to touch and what isn't. We were able to take our four children anywhere and be quite confident that they would know how to be good guests. In our many years of ministry as pastors, we constantly heard what gracious and well-behaved children we had. Good manners helped them in so many areas of their lives. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are following in their parents' footsteps. -- Thankful Granny, Wyoming, Mich.

DEAR THANKFUL GRANNY: Teaching children manners at home at an early age is smart. As you experienced firsthand, it makes it much easier to bring your children out to restaurants, to other people's homes, etc., if they are clear about what is expected of them wherever they are going. This takes practice.

For those parents who have not tried or have not been successful at training their children how to respect people's space or belongings, it is not too late to start. Rather than chastising your children, which can make them intimidated and resentful, think of creative ways to get them engaged. Make a game where whoever follows the most rules wins a prize. Your games can run from who knows how to set and clear the table to how to eat properly to the "walk, don't run" rule indoors to how to use your inside voice. Have fun and teach along the way. Then remind your children of the ground rules and expectations before you take them on an outing. Most important, be consistent. How you want your children to behave outside the home is how they should behave inside.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm wondering if "Doubted," the reader who needs help from family all the time, has considered counseling to improve his self-esteem, volunteering to give back and learn some job skills or going to school to enhance his job skills?

If I loan money to someone I love, I would be happy if he offered to baby-sit, shop for groceries for me, weed the garden, pick up books at the library, bake, do laundry, wash the car -- the list of tangible ways to show gratitude is endless. -- Grateful, Shreveport, La.

DEAR GRATEFUL: Getting creative to figure out a way to make good on a debt even when you do not have the money in the short term is smart. It shows your debtor that you are serious about repaying your debt and that you are willing to do whatever you can to be of support when you do not literally have the dollars to give back.