We’ve all been out to dinner and seen children behaving like perfect little cherubs. They sit nicely in their chair, say “please” and “thank you” to the server, and don’t throw a fuss when they don’t get a second glass of chocolate milk.
If this describes your kids – well done! You’re the envy of parents everywhere.
If it doesn’t, well, your children may be the ones that have servers cowering in fear when they approach your table.
You know you’ve got some work to do. But it’s okay! Teaching children good manners is often easier said than done.
We’ve got 10 tips to help you teach your kids good manners. Before you know it, you’ll be the envy of other parents.
1. Start Teaching Good Manners Early
Over the years, many scholars and psychologists studied the effects of politeness in children. They’ve found when a child learns manners and etiquette early, they have a higher ability to perceive, comprehend, and interpret the world around them.
When your baby learns to talk, his/her first words are “mom” and “dad,” or a derivative of either. Expressing needs like hunger, thirst, and needing a diaper change usually come next. After that, these five words should get worked into their vocabulary:
- Thank you
- May I
- Excuse me
- No thank you
Even though an 18-month-old toddler doesn’t understand the meaning of these words, they do understand their impact. They learn “please” is what you say when you want something. “Thank you” is what you say after you get it.
Let them hear you say these words and always tell them “you’re welcome” after they say “thank you.”
We use these words throughout our lifetimes so they should become a part of your child’s everyday language as soon as possible. People who are polite are often looked up to and are well-liked.
The reason why? They make us feel comfortable and special.
As you know, first impressions hold a lot of weight. So when you meet someone who smiles, sticks out their hand, and calls you by name before saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you!” you get the warm and fuzzies from the start.
You want your children to be these kinds of people later in life. After all, you’re not raising children, you’re raising the person they’re going to become.
2. Set a Good Example
Children mimic everything, including good manners. When your small child sees you waving to the mailman or smiling at the grocery store cashier, they gain an understanding that being polite is the only way to be.
At the same time, your interactions with the other members of your household influence them as well. Seeing you use magic words with your spouse reinforces the importance of politeness. It also shows them how to respect and treat people.
3. Engage them in Conversations
Of course, use discretion, but when you’re engaged in a conversation, allow your child to watch the way you interact with others.
Strike up a conversation with your child every day. Ask them how their day is going or what their favorite toy is and why. When they tell you about the toy, ask questions.
Tell them your favorite toy when you were their age. If they interrupt you or change the subject, explain to them that you let them speak so they should do the same.
You’re practicing good communication skills with them which they’ll need for the rest of their life.
4. Don’t Leave Them at Home
All couples need time together away from their children to stay connected. Date nights are an important part of keeping the spark alive in a relationship. Those times, go ahead and call the sitter.
But if you have errands, take them with you! The earlier your child learns how they’re expected to behave in public, the better off you’ll be.
This can be frustrating, especially when you need to go to the store on a busy Saturday afternoon so try it in short spurts during the week. They’ll still learn they don’t always get what they want and how to interact with others. Only, they’ll learn with fewer distractions.
Over time, you’ll be the one with those perfect little cherubs who don’t throw tantrums at restaurants or stores.
5. Correct and Encourage on the Spot
Small children often act before speaking. They don’t realize that interrupting an adult is rude. But don’t be rude in return!
In other words, tell your child in a polite manner that they’ll have to wait until the conversation is over before it’s their turn. Tell the person you’re engaged with, “I’m sorry, one second please,” before addressing your child.
Ignoring your child and allowing them to call you over and over frustrates everyone. But stopping a conversation to engage in an attention-seeking moment from your child is also rude.
In most cases, they want you to focus on them, not the person you’re talking to. It doesn’t make them self-centered or rude, it makes them a kid.
When they do wait until you’re finished speaking, tell them, “Wow! You showed good manners when you waited until it was your turn!”
6. Watch What You Say
Children are little mockingbirds, so always use appropriate language around small children. Every toddler has let out an “oopsy” and we’ve laughed even though we shouldn’t. Correct them as soon as they say it and move on.
Being mindful of what you say goes beyond four-letter words. Don’t use any derogatory or inappropriate adjectives to describe others. Don’t use offensive words, phrases, or names.
Watch what gossip gets talked about in front of your child. You never want to be in the position where your child announces to Miss Cindy that her mom says she’s a flake.
7. Encourage Name-Calling
No, we don’t mean that kind of name-calling! Teach your children to address people when they’re speaking to them. “Miss Cindy, may I please have some water?” will get your child a lot further than “Can I have some water?”
8. Teach Patience By Being Patient
Every parent wishes they had more patience, but you can at least showcase the patience you do have. Let your child see you hold a door for the person behind you or let the man with one item go ahead of you at the checkout.
Don’t lose your temper with slow-walkers or drivers. If someone is in your way, ask them politely to excuse you, then thank them when they move.
If you need help from someone, wait your turn until they’re available, especially when they’re helping someone else.
9. Teach them to Play Well with Others
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, get involved with age-appropriate playgroups. If you don’t have any in your area, take them to the park often. Teach them how to share and take turns with other children.
If you have more than one child, make sure they treat each other with fairness, respect, and politeness.
Children need to learn to keep their hands to themselves and not to call others hurtful names. They need to know to respect others’ belongings and not take anything without asking first. They should pick up their toys when they’re finished playing with them or at least help you do it.
Your child should always help clean up the mess they helped make at friends’ houses too. The other parent may sabotage this with, “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll pick everything up later.” If this happens, politely tell them that you’d like your child to help with a few items at least.
This way, your child learns that the rules and behaviors taught at home apply everywhere. Have them thank the child and their parents for inviting them over.
10. Charm School
If you’re not sure if you can pull this off, or you’ve tried these tips and they’re not working, charm school may be a good option for your child.
A modern charm school may be a little different than the ones your parents or grandparents went to, but they do exist. Today, we call these social skills classes or programs.
Social skills classes teach children manners and how to have positive interactions with others. They learn appropriate behavior and how to express themselves in conflicts and when they’re frustrated.
Some elementary schools have etiquette and manners classes once a week. Your local community center may have one of these programs, so check their website or bulletin.
If you’ve done a wonderful job teaching your child, becoming an etiquette or manners coach might be right up your alley. Learn more about becoming a certified coach. Your philosophy and skills in teaching good manners may be useful to another parent who’s struggling.
Useful Life Hacks at Your Fingertips
Parenting is exhausting and stressful but it’s so rewarding when we see the look of pride in our child’s eyes. Compliments and encouragement reinforce positive behavior. With our tips, teaching good manners to your children will be a breeze.
Your child will be proud of themselves and have a higher self-esteem. You’ll be proud of the people they become.
If you want more tips and hacks to help you get through your long, busy days, visit our life hacks blog.