Having good manners is something that, when learned early, becomes an automatic part of life and will make dealing with people and situations in both one's personal and professional life much easier. Kids learn about manners first from their parents, so it's important for parents to be thoughtful in how they teach their kids about how to have good manners. Maybe you're a parent wondering at what age you should start teaching your kids about manners, and what is the best approach. Take some of the guesswork away with these ten tips for teaching your child good manners.
10 BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL
The best way to show your kids what it means to have good manners is to be an example for them. Even if it's not obvious, kids are always watching their parents and taking note of their actions and words. It's one thing to tell your child what to do, but it's much more effective if you show them what to do. If you already have good manners, great! But maybe there are some areas you could improve on. Pay attention to what you're doing on an everyday basis and make adjustments as necessary.
9 GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE
Maybe the last time you took your four-year-old to a restaurant, it was a disaster. They yelled and banged on the table, didn't say thank you or made eye contact with the server, and generally caused an embarrassing scene. Afterward, you may have had thoughts of never bringing the kid out in public again.
But this is the wrong approach - if you don't give them opportunities to practice good manners in public, they will never improve. Use the negative experience as a teaching opportunity - discuss what went wrong and how they can improve next time.
8 FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
One of the best things you can do when teaching your child the difference between good and bad manners is to focus on the positive. As your child is learning, there will inevitably be slip ups along the way. But don't focus solely on what they did wrong. Comment on it, but make sure to acknowledge all of the things they did right. This will empower your child, and encourage them to keep practicing their new skills.
7 START YOUNG
As with so many things in life, it's best to start early. As soon as your child starts speaking, you can introduce polite words into their vocabulary, such as please and thank you. They may not know what these words mean at first, but they will begin to understand the contexts in which the words are used, and they will start to say them themselves. Again, remember to be a great role model and always say please and thank you yourself!
6 BE CONSISTENT
Learning good manners, like any other skill a child will learn, requires consistency. It's important to practice every day. One mistake some parents make is to be more lenient at home, and only focus on behaving properly when you're out in public. But this can be confusing to a child, in that they will be unsure of what's expected of them. Also, make sure you and your partner are on the same page. If they let your daughter throw food at the table but you don't, this is also confusing for the child.
5 HAVE POLITE PLAYDATES
Playdates, while usually fun for kids, present another opportunity for teaching manners. How kids learn to interact with their peers at a young age will set the stage for how they treat others as they grow up.
Before you go, remind your child of what's expected. At the play date, if your child forgets to say please and thank you, step in and remind them. At the end of the playdate, remind your child to thank their friend's parents for hosting.
4 REMEMBER THE REASON BEHIND MANNERS
In this day and age, manners aren't really discussed that much. As parents, we know we should be teaching our child good manners, and should be practicing them ourselves, but it's easy to forget the reason why they're so important. What manners really boil down to is having respect for others. As the famous etiquette master Emily Post once said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."
3 MAKE MEAL TIME TEACHING TIME
Mealtime with toddlers and young children can often be a challenge, manners-wise. With kids interrupting, playing with food, eating with their mouths open and not saying please and thank you, there are many opportunities for you as a parent to step in. And while it may be easier sometimes to just ignore some of these behaviors, it'll be more beneficial in the long run if you step in and remind little Johnny to stop smearing his spaghetti sauce on the table. Make sure you also model good table manners, and eventually, acting properly at the table will just become a good habit.
2 GIVE PRAISE
It's important to not just focus on what your child is doing wrong, but to also give praise for what they're doing right. Maybe at dinner, your little Susie played with her food, interrupted the conversation several times, and got up from the table without asking to be excused. But somewhere in there, she said thank you when you gave her more peas. You may be quick to focus on the negatives and only talk about those to her, but don't forget to acknowledge that little "thank you" too. This will give her some encouragement to try harder next time.
1 REMEMBER IT'S A JOURNEY
The goal of teaching a child good manners is not perfection. After all, no one - child or adult, is perfect all the time. Keep in mind that it's a learning process, and there will be many slip ups along the way. But if you are consistent, step in where necessary, and remember to celebrate the successes, before long your child will be in the habit of practicing good manners on an everyday basis, at home and in public.