It may appear that manners have taken a downward slide in priority over recent years. The fact remains, however, that instilling the principles of good manners in young children is exceedingly important. Understanding and using good manners shows courtesy and empathy toward others; it indicates thoughtfulness and reflects on the child’s upbringing and education.
Whether the occasion is a holiday gathering, a family meal, or a simple trip to the grocery store, parents can use these social opportunities to instill good manners in their children that will become a habitual part of their lives into adolescence and beyond.
When teaching manners, keep your expectations appropriate to your child’s age and developmental level. You can start working with a toddler on the basics of saying “please,” “thank you,” and “sorry.” By the time your child is a teenager, you should be focusing on advanced skills like phone etiquette and more complex communication skills.
Sometimes it’s helpful to focus on one area at a time — like basic table manners — before moving on to other skills. If you give your child too much to learn at once he may become overwhelmed. In addition to modeling polite behavior yourself, here are some other great ways parents can teach their children good manners.
Praise your child’s use of manners. Praise your child whenever you catch her using good manners. For young children, this may mean saying, “Great job remembering to say, ‘thank you.’” Praise older kids for putting their phone away when they’re at the dinner table or for shaking hands when greeting a new person.
Role-play tricky situations. Role-play gives kids an opportunity to practice their skills. It can be a helpful strategy when you’re confronting a new situation or when you’re facing some complicated circumstances. Sit down with your child and say, “What would you do if…” and then see what he has to say. Pretend to be a friend or another adult and see how your child responds to specific situations. Then, provide feedback and help your child discover how to behave politely and respectfully in various scenarios.
Correct them on the spot. Let your child know immediately if they’ve done something that constitutes as bad manners. Take a moment to correct them. If you are out in public or others are at your home, excuse yourself from the situation to speak with them privately.
Encourage your child to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” It may sound old-fashioned but using a title and last name is really the most well-mannered way for a child to address or refer to someone.
Emphasize the importance of being gracious when competing: Teach your child not to gloat when winning and to cheer others on when he is losing. Good sportsmanship will be an important skill for children to have later in life when they need to work with others on projects and other endeavors at home and at work.
Opening doors/holding doors for other people: Does your child see someone struggling with a stroller and bags and notice that she may need help opening a door? Would he observe an elderly person struggling with a big bag and ask if she needs help? If the answer is no, it’s time to redirect your child’s thinking.
Invest the time now in helping your child cultivate good manners. They will serve them well and reflect positively on them in the future.