When it comes to teaching kids manners, it can be difficult to know where to start. Children are not born with an innate sense of what is socially acceptable, and their lack of filter means they often have to be taught what is appropriate and what is not. While it is best to teach proper manners right from the get go, if you find your child is lacking in etiquette, remember that it is never too late to start the process of explaining. With a few easy tips, you will learn how to raise a child with good manners and why they matter so much.
What Are Manners?
To put it simply, manners are how we behave toward others. They are our way of being when we are in a social situation and interacting with other people. Most of the time, we are teaching manners to our children without even knowing it. By instructing them on basic principles of kindness, sharing and even volume control, we are setting them up for learning their manners.
Most of us begin teaching kids manners when they are very young by reminding them to think of others when out and about. “Let’s use our indoor voice” is a common phrase thrown around in mommy groups, and it is a perfect example of how we try to teach our children about awareness. Reminding them to keep their hands to themselves is another popular teaching technique that most moms don’t even realize they’re using.
Manners are basically how we show children what is socially acceptable and what is not.
How To Teach Good Manners to a Child
Children are like sponges, ready to soak up everything you share with them. Teaching them manners is not nearly as tricky as you may think. Here are some easy tips for teaching proper manners to kids.
Explain why we do the things we do
For instance, when attending a birthday party, explain exactly why you are bringing a gift. “We are taking Ethan a gift to say ‘thank you’ for letting us be a part of his big day and to help him celebrate.” By giving a good explanation, your child will associate gift giving with being appreciative.
Set expectations before every event
As you begin attending parties, assemblies or other social functions, speak with your child beforehand to let them know exactly what behavior is expected of them. Focus on one or two important behaviors that they can work on. For instance, if you are attending church services, remind your child that they need to remain quiet and sit still in order to show respect. “We are going to be at church for an hour. I need you to be calm, quiet and to sit still so that we can listen carefully.” Eventually, after the child has experienced the event a few times, they won’t need to be reminded. You will even be able to use past experiences to help them with new ones. “We are going to an important meeting at school. I’d like you to behave like you are at church.”
Be a role model
Teaching kids manners depends a lot on the person doing the teaching. If you are not showing good manners, it will be difficult for your kids to show them. Most children will emulate what they see at home, so setting a good example is paramount to success. Always use words like please and thank you to ensure your children can learn from your example. Don’t be afraid to apologize if you mess up. Kids will often point out when you are not following your own rules, so be sure to accept their reminders with grace. “Thank you for reminding me to say ‘please.’ I appreciate your help.” Children need to see you practicing what you preach.
Demonstrate cheerful greetings
Always greet people with a smile and a cheerful hello. Teach your children that a smile can help to relax other people and put them at ease. It is also a great way of showing that you care. Begin by showing them how to greet friends and loved ones this way, and when they are comfortable, you can move on to greeting strangers. “Here is Grandma Brenda! Let’s give her a big smile and say, ‘hello!'” Don’t forget to teach them how to say goodbye, as well. A friendly farewell is as important as a cheerful greeting.
Ensure good listening
Children are not known for their amazing attention spans, so when you are working on teaching kids manners, you want to know that they are receptive to the information you are offering. A great way to do this is to make sure they are listening by asking them to demonstrate it. “I have something important to talk to you about. Please let me know you are listening by putting your finger on your nose.” Once they have shown they are ready to listen, you can then share your information. This is a great trick when setting expectations before an event. You can even help them to remember their manners by finding a hand motion or gesture that will have meaning to them. For instance, putting a finger on your lips can be a nonverbal reminder to them to be quieter.
Reward good manners
Make sure to let your children know that you appreciate their good manners by verbally reminding them of it often. “I was so proud of you today when you played so quietly while I was on the phone. Thank you for being such a good girl.” By praising their behavior, they will be more likely to seek your favor with good manners in the future. You can even use reward charts to help them earn a special gift or small treasure for their good behavior.
Activities to Help Teach Manners to Kids
Besides the tips shared above, there are various activities you can do with your children to help them learn basic good manners. Here are a few to consider.
Use illustrated flash cards. These are great for younger children, as they are clear pictures of good behavior vs bad behavior.
Put the child in charge of manners at dinner. Purposely make etiquette mistakes and allow them to point them out and correct your behavior. By putting them in charge, you are giving them hands-on experience in how to behave in social situations.
Observe others in public. Sit in a public space for 10-15 minutes and let your child watch how others interact together. Talk about what you see. Have them find examples of good manners they see.
Play a Question and Answer Game. Making learning fun is key to having the information stick. There are tons of games available to help them think logically about what behaviors make sense.
Take them on a date. Ask your child to come somewhere special with you – a restaurant or museum, for instance – and make a big deal of it. Remind them that they will need to use their best manners there, and allow them to demonstrate what they have learned.
Play House. Playing house with your children will allow you to demonstrate how you would like them to behave through role-play. Play acting has long been used as a teaching tool to great effectiveness.
Read books about manners. There are hundreds of books aimed at teaching manners to children of all ages. Sit them down and read with them to help them learn in a new and fun way. Here are some of our favorite books for teaching kids manners:
Teaching kids manners is often something we do without even thinking. But by putting into practice the tips above, you can reinforce the lessons in practical ways and ensure you are raising children who know how to behave no matter what situation they find themselves in.
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