Do you remember growing up and your parents drilling the Ps & Qs (Please and Thank you) in you at any given opportunity? As parents, especially in a digital age, it has become more challenging to teach kids basic manners and moral values.
One of the most important jobs for parents is to teach their kids social skills and more importantly – how to treat others with respect.
You will find yourselves in many situations – be it a restaurant, a playdate, or meeting a family member – where good manners are particularly important and each of these situations, are opportunities to teach our children.
When do children understand the concept of manners?
Around the 18-month mark, a child begins to understand that other people have feelings just like him/her, this is the time to start teaching them that their behavior affects others. That being said, it is NEVER too early to teach your children the concept of please and thank you, and many children can even sign these emotions and actions.
The importance should be around teaching your children manners as early as possible, so that it becomes something that children do automatically, according to Robin Thompson, founder of etiquette-network.com
Why should children learn manners?
According to Sheryl Eberly, mother of three and author of 365 Manners Kids Should, sending your child into the world without knowing social graces is problematic. An adult and equally a child will naturally turn away from a child who is rude or simply doesn’t understand how to share and pushes all the time.
However, what many parents tend to forget is that learning manners doesn’t happen overnight. For a young child it could be as simple as introducing a new skill each month (such as saying hello when someone talks to them). With younger children it is always helpful to praise them when they act as expected.
Try not to over expect from a young child, as it could have a negative effect where they begin to feel forced into doing something that they simply may not be comfortable with. Instead try find a middle ground, for example sitting at the table for a limited amount of time if you have guests around your home.
How does your behaviour affect children’s manners?
Never forget that your behaviour as parents and adults goes a long way in setting an example. Try displaying the same manners to your child and to your partner. This could be as simple as saying thank you for helping to take the garbage out. This consistent behaviour, by all members of the family, reinforces the importance of manners and good etiquette.
Situations where manners are important
The Dinner Table
- Most children by the age of 3 should eat with a fork and a spoon and sit at the table for at least 15 minutes. From a young age, children should be warned if they throw their food on the floor, and calmly explained that it isn’t nice and if they don’t want more to simply say ‘’no more, thank you!’’
- By making a habit of sitting at the table for meals together (whether at home or in a restaurant, it greatly reduces the risk of obesity and improves their eating habits, as they are persuaded to have a conversation.
- Even at home or in a restaurant, allow kids to say please and thank you when food is served. This also teaches respect towards someone giving them a service.
- Playdates are a test for most children (and parents!) as they learn the concept of sharing and taking turns to play with a toy. Help your child understand this by encouraging him/her to offer a toy of choice to a friend. For a bonus – choose this toy before the play date!
- During playdates, encourage your child to show empathy and say sorry if they act wrong or if they hurt another child. The older the child gets, the more they will understand why they are expected to say this and understand their actions were wrong.
- During a playdate, remind children of their manners at each opportunity, such as: when being offered a snack, when they share or when they are leaving that they need to say goodbye and thank you.
Conversations and Communication
- Always persuade your children to answer if spoken to, also explain that if they don’t know the answer they can easily say “I don’t know.”. They need to learn the importance of acknowledging someone asking them a question.
- Encourage patience by asking your children to count to 5 when waiting for the other person to finish talking.
- Teach them not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency – teach them to have a code word or some sort of signal.
- From the time children are able to write, teach them the importance of writing thank you cards. In a digital age these are becoming more and more rare, and receiving one goes a long way in making people feel special. This could be a written letter to their teacher thanking for their education, or to a family member for a certain gift.
- For older children who understand manners more clearly, introduce the concept of email etiquette, whereby they can send an email or correspondence with ‘’Yours Sincerely or Best Regards’’. It is never too early to help them write in a clear and polite manner.
How have your introduced manners to your children? Let us know your top tips. And if you are struggling with teaching manners at the moment, be reminded of the 2 most important things: