How to Teach Children Good Manners
Teaching Kids To Be Polite
As much as you might like, your child is not going to be a perfect angel all the time. Even the best behaved have their moments, and remembering to be polite and well-mannered can be difficult. How do you teach your child to take a minute and say thank you before opening a birthday gift?
How do you teach your child to chew with his mouth closed? How do you show your child that they ought to say things like “Please,” and “Excuse me”? Here are some tips to make sure manners are a priority, whether your children are at home, at school, on the playground, or in the grocery store.
It's a Habit & Lifestyle
Teaching your children good manners is like teaching them about healthy eating or exercising or the importance of family or…any of the million things we teach our children throughout their lives.
If we want the message to stick, and really make an impression, we have to practice what we preach. Children model what they see, and you are their first and most effective teachers. If you want them to behave a certain way, do it yourself.
You sometimes forget to say “Thank you,” right? You sometimes don’t let the car trying to merge into your lane make that move or let someone with fewer items go ahead of you in the store.
You sometimes forget, and your children certainly will. If your child forgets to say “Thank you,” just gently remind him. Lots of parents just ask, “What do you say?” to prompt them.
“Mom, this is the worst food ever. It makes me want to throw up.” Rude! But he is just stating his opinion. Teach him to state it a little more delicately: “Mom, I don’t really like to eat broccoli.” This is especially important if he is a guest! Also teach him to try things first and then say he’s had enough of a particular food if out in public.
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Believe it or not, sometimes your child is not trying to be rude or impolite. He just doesn’t know the societal norms you’re trying to teach him. Some behaviors are ingrained; others have to be learned. If you don’t want your child interrupting you, for instance, tell him. At certain ages, children don’t realize that they aren’t the center of the universe and that interrupting or other behaviors are not acceptable.
Read Stories That Teach
Give book gifts about manners and talk about them. Some good ones to try: Llama, Llama Mad at Mama, Clifford’s Manners (Norman Bridwell), Chocolate-Covered Cookie Tantrum (Deborah Blumenthal), How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food (Jane Yolen), and Monster Manners (Andrew Glass).
If you are watching a television show or movie with your child, take the opportunity to point out little examples of good and bad manners. Take the teachable moment!
Age & Environment
Think about the important rules you want to teach your children. Finer points of etiquette can wait until your child is older.
Teach age-appropriate manners; thanks and please can be taught almost immediately; don’t chew with your mouth open can wait until your child masters fork and spoon!
Create an environment where manners are not just appreciated, but expected. After dinner, for instance, children as young as 1 or 2 can hand you their dish when done or take it to the sink themselves.
Let them know that good manners and behavior are just part of everyday life.
Reinforce good manners. When your child exhibits especially good behavior or manners, praise him with words or with a treat like kids cookies.
To many children, this is much more effective than calling them on bad behavior. But if you have to, make sure to speak to your child as soon as the behavior occurs.
If you don’t expect your child to say “Thank you” today, why should he tomorrow? You do not, and should not, be a drill sergeant, but do make sure you enforce your rules consistently. Otherwise, you may as well not make them at all.
Good manners aren’t an “extra.” They are valuable lessons to teach your child, and it is never too early, or too late, to start!
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