Manners are an important social tool that children need to learn in order to be successful in school and life. No time is too early to start teaching manners to children, even if only by example.
Even as infants and toddlers, children pick up on how people in your family treat each other and whether there is courtesy and respect shown daily. When my daughter was three, I was trying to reinforce good behavior by thanking her when she did something well and “tank oo” became one of my son’s first words. No matter that he didn’t know what context to use it in yet, he learned, in time.
The time to be a good role model is inside the house, and out. Grumbling at other drivers or people in public is also noticed, and unfortunately, sometimes copied, too, to great embarrassment.
As toddlers and preschoolers, there a number of ways you can begin teaching manners to children.
If you make a habit of using please when you ask your kids to do something, they will become more accustomed to hearing it and using it.
Say Thank You/You’re Welcome
Ditto. The more you use them, the more they will. This good behavior will help in disciplining your little ones as well.
Do Not Interrupt
Kids are pretty self-absorbed at early ages and expect you to respond to their needs immediately. When you are in a conversation with another adult, remind them not to interrupt (unless it is an emergency).
Then, when there is a break in the conversation (this shouldn’t be too long, if they are young, but long enough to get the point across) give them your attention and respond to them.
Do Not Touch Things that Don’t Belong to You
This can go for stores as well as other people’s houses. Teaching children to only handle what you have established belongs to you can save you some embarrassing moments and set some ground rules for purchases. I avoided many requests at the store and merchandise dragged off shelves by teaching my kids that those things didn’t belong to us and they needed to stay where they were.
Share and Take Turns
These skills are very important when your child enters social settings with other children. Preschool-age children notice, and complain, when other kids in their classes don’t take turns or share.
There are consequences when your child strays outside the guidelines that you are trying to enforce. Teaching your children to apologize when they make a mistake gives them pause to think about it and let’s the other person know that your child realizes they should have acted differently.
Stay calm and be prepared to repeat these lessons over and over again. It can be frustrating, but I have found that losing my temper negates the lesson and nothing is learned. Manners will come if you are diligent, but it takes time.
Once it becomes second nature to your kids, it is nice to see their interactions with people outside your home and even with you. The other night, before we even sat down to dinner, my son sang out, “thanks Mom for the great dinner!” It can kind of make your day.
Check out our roundup on the benefits of house chores for your little ones!