Social skills are one of the most important things you teach your child. Manners, so often overlooked in the busyness of today’s world, can help your children form positive relationships and project professionalism. It’s never too early to start, either. Kids are sponges, especially when they’re small. Even toddlers are smart and capable enough to demonstrate basic manners.
Start early. As soon as children learn to talk, they can start learning when and why they should be using “please” and “thank you.” Demonstrate that when they use these words, it helps them get what they want—within reason, of course.
The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. The next time your child says or does something inappropriate, ask, “Is that the way you’d like other people to treat you?” You can use The Golden Rule to encourage sharing, taking turns, or even waiting for everyone to get to the table before eating.
Empathy. This goes hand in hand with The Golden Rule. Whenever the opportunity arises, ask your child to put themselves in another person’s shoes: “If you gave someone a gift and they didn’t say thank you, how would you feel?” Alternately, “If you were waiting patiently in line and someone jumped in front of you how would that make you feel?”
Model manners. Have you ever said something regrettable and heard your child repeat it at the most inopportune moment? Children will emulate what you do and say, especially when you’re not ordering them to do it. Be sure to set an example by using polite words and behavior.
Be consistent. Like all things, manners are learned through consistency and habit. After saying “Bless you!” or “Gesundheit!” hundreds of times, it becomes second nature. When good manners are always exercised repeatedly, it’s easier for your children to learn that they’re expected.
Role play. Make it a game; practice holding doors open, giving and receiving gifts, sneezing (and responding appropriately), taking turns, or waiting patiently. Be silly, but insist on modeling manners properly.
Time and place. It can be difficult to grasp different places have different expectations. Explain why places like church, school, or the library require your children to adjust their behaviors. It might be okay to talk whenever they want at home, but at school they need to raise their hand first, at church they may just need to sit quietly, and at the library they may need to whisper.
Read up! A quick search at your local library or your favorite bookseller can provide you with a wealth of age-appropriate references on manners.
Encourage and reward. Make a chart of expected behaviors and reward children with a small token (e.g., stickers) when they perform the behavior appropriately. Compliment their good behavior with sincerity, and use a specific example so that they know what they did well: “What beautiful manners you have! I am so proud of how polite you were with Mrs. Smith today.”
Top 10 Manners Children Should Know:
- Saying “please” and “thank you”
- Letting people speak without interruption
- Saying “excuse me” when appropriate
- Knocking before entering a room or house
- Exercising kindness
- Avoiding bullying behaviors
- Covering mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing
- Waiting their turn
- Holding doors for people who might be behind them
- Offering help