HOW TO TEACH MANNERS TO YOUNG CHILDREN
We all want to raise well-mannered children, but how and when do you start? Parents are the best role models for teaching children manners, no matter how young they are, children are always learning by imitation. Parents and caregivers must model the behavior they want to see in children because the children are always watching. Here are some guidelines for what to teach when:
Babies – (0-1 years)
Babies will often grab at faces or clothing when they don’t have speech yet to get their caregiver’s attention when they want something. Teach your baby not to grab at someone’s face, hair, or clothing by gently taking their hand and showing them how to touch softly or stroke a pet’s back. As they get older, gentleness will translate into politeness. Notice the tone of your voice when speaking to your baby. Use a soft, friendly tone and use “please and thank you” often in your everyday conversations. Your baby will imitate this as she learns to speak.
Toddlers – (2-3 years)
As toddlers begin to use and understand more language, they are moving around more as well. During this stage, caregivers must realize that manners don’t come naturally, they must be taught. Manners won’t be learned overnight, it will take a long time, so be patient and practice, practice, practice ! Toddlers are just beginning to learn how to act socially around others, and parents need to be observant and “hands on” at this time. Concentrate on these areas: Sharing – teach them how to share and discourage snatching toys from others. Politeness – don’t allow aggressive behavior such as pushing, shoving, or hitting. Practice saying “please, thank you, and excuse me” often, but expect to say it a lot before they really get it. Cleanliness – even if they don’t want to clean up, encourage them to help (both at home and in preschool situations). A new activity should not be started until the first one is cleaned up. Patience – introduce the concept of “waiting” in situations where they have to take turns, or when Mom is on the phone or speaking to another adult in person, or when they have to wait for a meal or snack to be served.
Pre-K and Elementary School – (4-9 years)
As children reach this stage they are about to embark on their first try at social interactions, (if they haven’t already). Concentrate on teaching them the social skills they will need to get along with others: Greetings – introducing themselves to peers and adults with direct eye contact and a firm hand shake will boost their confidence and help them connect with others. Cooperating – whether following classroom directions or choosing teams on the playground, teach your child that most tasks require cooperation. Consideration of others– your child needs to understand that we all have feelings and our own points of view, teach him to be considerate in his interactions with others. Table manners – model at home what you expect of your child in public, such as staying seated during the meal and not talking with a mouthful of food. Thank you notes – by this age children can begin to send handmade thank you notes for all gift giving occasions like birthdays and holidays. Saying “please and thank you” in all social situations should come easily, without frequent reminders, as a child matures.