People aren’t born with good manners. They learn them. Of course, we all know that manners are best learned in childhood, when little minds are like sponges and children are mimicking everything they see and hear in an adult world. What’s the best way teach manners? Let’s take a look.
First, we need to start with the history of manners and how society has changed the roles of adults and children throughout the centuries. In the Victorian Era, children were expected to act like ‘miniature adults.’ The mindset was children could work, dress, eat, sleep and converse just like adults. This is a direct opposition to how we feel about raising kids today, where the mantra is ‘let them be kids while they’re kids.’ For many parents, rules for kids just don’t apply. Manners today are more of a happy medium of these two philosophies. While we don’t expect – and shouldn’t – kids to be little adults, there is a rationale for teaching kids proper manners. Manners and politeness give kids confidence and build their self-esteem. Children naturally look to adults for praise and validation. Having an adult comment on your little one’s manners will not only make you proud, but make them feel good, too. Manners also help kids become more aware and sensitive to others. Holding doors open for adults, speaking politely and taking turns shows kids that other people’s feeling matter and their kindness can help put people at ease.
Where to start:
- Good habits start early. As soon as children learn to talk, they can be taught to say please and thank you. This is just simple repetitiveness. The more they hear the words, the more they will use them. Make sure they hear you say please and thank you to people you speak with daily – from family members to store clerks.
- No interrupting, please. Children don’t understand taking turns and when it’s their time to speak. Teaching this takes patience. When your child interrupts you, kindly tell them you are speaking and when you are finished you will speak with them. This could take a while so be patient. Most importantly, don’t ignore them. That only gives them the message that they’re not important and their needs and wants don’t matter enough to you.
- Excuse me? This goes hand in hand with interrupting. Make certain children understand excuse me, both in conversation and physically. If they’re walking by someone in a crowd, explain to them how to step aside to make room, especially for adults and elderly.
- Table manners. Table manners need to be introduced at an early age. Once your child is old enough to sit at the ‘big table’ with adults, begin to introduce them to small things they can manage, such as napkins on their lap, may I be excused from the table and clearing their own plate.
Remember, your children watch everything you do. When they see parents acting politely, they will follow!