I’m stating the obvious, but parents are the number one teacher in their child’s life. Our kids are sponges and they absorb what we say, and what we do. When we teach our kids manners, we equip them for success in life. Who doesn’t want to be around a kind, polite and respectful child who grows into a kind, polite and respectful adult?
Unfortunately, our kids are not born with good manners, and therefore it’s up to us as parents to not only teach them, but also to display good manners ourselves. Whether it’s using our pleases and thanks you’s, remembering our table manners or saying sorry to our kids when we screw up, the day is full of teachable moments. Here are a five ways to help make those manner moments count:
BE A BROKEN RECORD
It’s okay. Repeat yourself for as long as you have to until you see the polite response you want. I must have said, “How do you ask nicely,” thousands of times before my kids understood to say please when asking for something. Now my new broken record mantra is, “Please pick your clothes up off the floor,” or “Put your shoes away.” To give more power to my words, I’ve incorporated THE BIN. It’s a large clear plastic bin where mommy puts those pesky repeat offense items like shoes, backpacks, socks or toys. I hold them hostage until my kids either pay me .25 cents or do a chore to set their items free. My hope is they’ll tire of seeing their items in the bin and actually put them where they belong.
Manners aren’t just for big kids. Sign language is a great way to teach our babies and toddlers how to say please and thank you. You’ll be amazed how your babies quickly learn those two golden words.
We’re building habits in our kids and even though it feels like it takes more than 30 days before the habit of good manners sticks, keep reminding them. Your kids are probably more polite than you think. Just ask your friends how they are when you’re not around, and I bet you’ll be surprised.
Practice makes perfect, right? Create opportunities for your child to practice their manners. Kids love to play pretend, so try playing the game of good manners with these role playing ideas: how to introduce a new friend, how to shake hands and make eye contact with adults, how and when to say Yes Ma’am and No Sir, how to answer the telephone and take a message, and even how to exude a kind tone of voice when saying sorry or responding politely to an adult’s request.
Family dinner is a great time to teach kids what’s expected of them at the dinner table. If they can’t learn at home, we can’t expect them to know what to do at a restaurant. Teach them how to have dinner conversation, to chew with their mouths closed, and to ask for permission to leave the table when done with their food. Personally, I’ve not implemented the good manner of staying at the table until everyones finished, because frankly…I like when the kids leave the table. My husband and I can actually have an uninterrupted conversation.
You’ve got to reward your child when they get it right! Our verbal praise means the world to our kids, but I’ve also found monetary rewards go a long way, too! For younger kids, stickers or small candies can do the trick.
I like to use charts when teaching my kids new chores or expected behaviors. At the end of each week, my kids have the opportunity to earn an allowance based on doing a few chores and displaying good manners. When I’m teaching them a new manner like using Yes Sir and No Ma’am with other adults, I’ll give them a .25 cent bonus when I actually hear them use it. And no, they’re not going around using it just to make more money. I actually wish this were the case sometimes. But instead when they remember to say it, I give them a .25 cent bonus. Once they master this polite response, I’ll move on to a new behavior to teach and reward.
MAJOR IN THE MAJORS
Pick the manners most important to your family and work on those first. Don’t overload your child or yourself. When your child displays the manners most important to you, then teach them a new one. Here are the manners we’re working on in the Owens household: saying please and thank you, speaking in a kind tone of voice, making eye contact when talking to adults, using table manners, and knowing when to reply with Yes Ma’am or No Sir. Wow! If our kids can be consistent in these behaviors, we’ve done a great job.
BRING IN REINFORCEMENTS
The old adage is true. It takes a village to raise kids. Don’t cringe when your mother or mother-in-law tries to impart good manners to your kids. Personally, I need all the help I can get, and it’s nice to have someone else remind my kids to do the right thing.
Another great option to consider are etiquette classes for kids. Check out these local Tampa businesses for class schedules: The Manners Advantage, Tampa Etiquette Academy, The National League of Junior Cotillions, Mind Your Manners Etiquette School. Or ease your way into the subject with a great book on manners. I’ve been reading 365 Manners Kids Should Know, which is a day-by-day guide and covers the manner basics plus great topics such as cell phones, telephone talk, digital technology, letter and email writing and much more. There’s also the American Girl’s Guide to Manners Book, which does address some more mature topics so read the reviews before buying. And for the boys, the book, Dude, That’s Rude! Get Some Manners is a fun choice.
Manners are both taught and caught. When we display good manners towards our children and towards others, our kids will take notice. Lay a great foundation of good manners and build on it. Continue to teach them, encourage them, remind them, reward them and be proud of them. Keep up the great work!