Teach Your Child Good Manners

teaching good manners to kidsGood manners are a way of acting in which you take into consideration the actions of the other person. They include – but are not limited to – saying please and thank you, not ignoring someone and respecting someone’s space or things. When you teach good manners to your children, you are setting them up for win-win situations in their future as mannerly people are considerably nicer to be around. So, if your child is mannerly, others will want to be around them, do things with them and they will make friends among their peers. They will also be considered respectful by those who are in authority over them, like teachers, their friend’s parents, bosses and you. Here is how to teach your child to have manners – and use them:

Model good manners as much as possible. You will set a good example for your child if you use the good manners that you are expecting them to use. This not only includes things like simple table manners, but also includes the respect we show other people when they are not around. Your child can hear you gossiping on the phone or arguing with your spouse. It is at these times when your children are really paying attention to how you act. Showing respect for the other person is important.

Remember what stage of development your child is in and take it into consideration. For instance, your 2 to 3-year-old may not be ready to voice a thank you to someone they do not know, depending where they are with stranger anxiety. It is okay to thank an adult for them to model the behavior so that when they have overcome the stranger anxiety issue, they will know what to do. Also, reminders to use your manners are great for kids who are busy with their activities, playing with friends or just have their minds on something else. But if you continue to remind your child about the very same manner time and again, you’ll want to set up a parenting contract with a logical consequence until they are over the hump of not remembering. Sometimes all it takes is making it more important to your child to use the manners than to forget about them.

Be clear when you are telling your child what is expected of them with each manner you are teaching. While you don’t want to sit down with your 4-year-old and read an entire book on etiquette, you should take time out to teach your child different standards expected of them and not just wait for when the good manner is expected. This will help your child know what to do when it is happening and build their trust in you.

Share your expectations with your child before you go somewhere and it is important they remember their manners. For instance, I am always saying to my children – even my teens – “Remember your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’.” when they are going out the door to a friend’s house. A simple reminder in preparation of going somewhere puts the good manners in the forefront of their thinking, which helps them use it.

Use the correct words when teaching about manners. When taking about their behavior, use words like ‘polite’ or ‘impolite’. For instance, if your 11-year-old son makes gagging noises at the table because someone dared to put broccoli on is plate, you could say, “It’s impolite to make gagging noises at the table. The polite thing to do is say, ‘I really don’t like broccoli. May I have something else?'” Find teachable moments for your child to use their manners. While using your table manners are standard in your home, try getting your kids to really pay attention to how they act when they eat by taking them to a sit down restaurant. Or, take out the china and set up an elaborate meal in your own dining room.

Define certain etiquette behaviors with a code phrase. One that many moms and dads use is the term ‘inside voices’. Children at a very young age know the difference between their inside voice and their outside voice. They know to tone down the volume with someone says “Use your inside voices.” Parents who use this phrase reap the benefits of not having to raise their voice louder than their kids, which may cause some embarrassment. Develop more of these as you see where your kids need them.

Try not to over-correct your child in public. If your child is exhibiting bad manners in public and it is affecting other people, you should correct them in a monotone type of voice that lets them know to stop. If they begin to argue with you, say something along the lines of “We can discuss this when we get home.” or “We’ll talk about it later.” If it is not affecting anyone, take note of the behavior and correct them at home later. While it would be nice if there never came a time that you had to correct your child in public, if they are doing something that is offense, like picking their nose, the embarrassment is already built-in.

Allow your child to make mistakes and don’t expect them to be perfect all of the time. We are all fallible humans who sometimes pick up bad habits and manners. Or sometimes kids just act like, well, kids 😉 Sometimes they lose patience and interrupt or don’t take the time to say ‘thank you’. This is all developmentally appropriate.

Catch your child using their manners and praise them for it. This is especially important when a child learns a new manner and they use it correctly. But, you should strive to praise your child about their good manners as much or more than you instruct about bad manners.

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