Instilling etiquette in your child can be a challenge, but it’s a worthwhile effort. While some children do take to manners more naturally, it’s important to teach and reinforce these skills to your children. Well-mannered children will stand out for the right reasons! Manners like saying “please” and “thank you”, being respectful and courteous, and using good table manners will get your child noticed by teachers and other parents – and build their self-confidence, independence and self-esteem.
Teaching good manners can be a little tricky. It can be hard to convince a child to follow basic manners when their peers at school might not be doing so. The best approach combines direct instruction, modeling the behaviors you want to see, and reinforce your expectations with praise and consequences.
What manners should I teach my child?
In order to teach your child manners, you need to decide on which ones you want to teach. Some common manners include saying “please” and “thank you”, “I’m sorry”, and “you’re welcome,” along with greeting people with a hello, using polite table manners, asking before touching other people or things that aren’t theirs, keeping their belongings tidy, being patient and waiting your turn, owning your mistakes, and being inclusive and empathetic. Using inside voices, keeping calm when upset, negotiating conflicts fairly are other examples of common manners.
Tips for teaching children manners
Provide specific instructions
Sometimes children may not know or understand what you expect without you explicitly telling them your expectations. It helps to provide a brief explanation on why certain manners matter. You don’t necessarily need to go in depth about the why, and your child doesn’t have to agree or be happy about your expectations either. If they understand your reasoning, they will be more likely to follow through.
Keep expectations age-appropriate
Tailor your expectations to your child’s age and developmental level. Toddlers can start with “please” and “thank you.” You can also work on patience, but they may sit politely for a few moments before getting anxious to move.
Be a role model
The best way for your child to learn manners is by practicing the behaviors you are teaching them yourself. When your child sees you speaking politely to others and being considerate, they will follow your lead. In these instances, you can even have them help you decide what manners you should use. Remember that good manners extend to when we’re upset, too. Pay attention to how you handle situations when you’re stressed, frustrated or mad. Avoid raising your voice or speaking in an unkind way.
Your child wants to please you. The more positive attention they get for using their manners, the more likely they will become ingrained. Praise your child when you catch them doing the behaviors you want. You can also praise them for effort, even if they didn’t get it right. It can take a while to master these skills and for them to become a habit.
What to do when your child doesn’t use their manners
Just like learning any other skill, manners take time to master. Expect slip-ups and sometimes even resistance. By nature, children will test boundaries to see if they really need to follow the expectations you set. Consistency and consequences will show you are serious and it may take lots of practice and reminder for manners to become part of who they are.
If your child forgets their manners, it’s best to avoid lectures or reprimands. Instead, simply state the reason why a specific behavior might not be appreciated and what they should do instead. Simply offer reminders and give them a chance to fix the situation. They may have simply forgotten their manners and need more support before they become good at using them.
If your child still doesn’t follow when you remind them of your expectations, it’s time to use a consequence. The consequence should be linked to the behavior in question. Make sure your child knows what the consequence is for not using their manners. Follow through consistently to provide the message that ignoring good manners is not acceptable. Your child may test your expectations, but practicing these skills and using consequences can help manners become habits.
Teaching manners is an important part of parenting. It can be tricky to help your child master everything you expect, By using clear instructions, keeping expectations age-appropriate, being a role model, using praise, with prompts and consequences, you can instill good manners that will make you a proud parent!