Elizabeth and Olivia never liked playing with Barbie dolls. They didn't even own one. They preferred to play with their Cabbage Patch dolls, dance and flip around the yard and the house and playing all sorts of make-believe games. That's why I held my breath when one of Elizabeth's friends gave her a Barbie doll at her 8th birthday party. The games had been played and the goodies had been eaten when Elizabeth (with her friends and little sister gathered around her) started opening her gifts. When she pulled the box containing the doll from the gift bag, I held my breath for a second--hoping she didn't a little girl's feelings by expressing dislike for the gift. But a second was all it took, because without missing a beat, Elizabeth looked at her friend and smiling said 'thank you'.
Teaching your children to have and use good manners is an essential of parenting. Not only are you giving your children good social skills, you are giving them the ability to respect and to be respected. You are instilling in them the truth that says "I am not better than you. We are all special and unique and deserve to be appreciated."
So how do you raise your children to be mannerly? By being that way yourself. Don't demand things from them. Ask nicely. Say 'please' and 'thank-you'. Knock before entering their bedroom (once they reach school age) to show you respect their privacy and personal space and remind them to do the same for you. Insist on everyone using proper table manners and phone etiquette. Teach them to make eye contact when speaking to someone, to hold the door open for people in public places when appropriate...to treat others they way they themselves want to be treated.
The use of proper manners is something we don't see much of these days. Instead, parents make excuses for their child's rude behavior. The problem, however, is that there is no excuse. Instead, there is a reason. And the reason so many children have such bad manners is that they've not been taught any differently. So live and teach good manners. After all, actions speak louder than words.
P.S. After the party was over, Elizabeth asked if she could exchange the doll for something she would play with. I was more than happy to oblige.