Rude, obnoxious children have always been frowned upon. Why do children as young as five years old feel completely comfortable sassing a lady in her seventies? Public restaurants are overflowing with ill-mannered children that throw food, scream and yell demands at their parents and grandparents. Young couples pass the unruly children and exclaim, “I will never have kids if that’s how they’re going to act!” Where did these ankle-biters learn this behavior?
As parents of impolite children soon discover, misbehaving and selfishness comes naturally and must be corrected. The knowledge of common courtesies and acceptable manners in everyday life is not something a child automatically knows, but it is something that a child has to be taught—the earlier the better.
“When we teach our kids manners early in life, it also teaches them that other people matter. They learn quickly that they are not the center of the universe. This, in turn, aids them in becoming level-headed adults,” explains an experienced mother emphatically.
Another mom adds, “I want my kids to politely sit with me in restaurants and at other gatherings. I am not about to take them to these places without training him how to do this at home.”
It is never too early to start teaching manners. In the very beginning, babies can view manners in their own parents. They can hear your tone of voice when you answer the phone or the door. The little ones are already perceiving positive and negative attitudes towards other people.
Practicing common courtesies in your own life can be the starting point for teaching your son or daughter what is acceptable and favorable behavior. Here are a few basic courtesies to consider when beginning to train a child to be respectful and kind.
Everyone has to wait. Some people snarl and make nasty comments under their breath while they are waiting longer than usual at the checkout counter. Others smile politely as they realize that unforeseen problems arise and can slow down the flow of day to day happenings. What are the attitudes you want your son or daughter to carry with them throughout their journey in life? Implement those same manners into your own. How can you make this relevant to your child? Take her to a park where there are many children playing. Instruct her to kindly wait for her turn for the slide. Let her know that pushing, shoving or yelling at someone to hurry up is also rude and selfish. Remind her how she feels when other kids do that very same thing to her.
Teach verbal courtesies. As soon as children begin to speak, words like “please” and “thank you” should be used to show desire and gratitude. If the child is unable to talk or has a speech impediment, motions or hand gestures can be used to express these courtesies. A good place to begin teaching to say “please” would be with a special treat of some sort. For example, if your child wants gummy bears, tell him to say “please” before handing him a gummy bear.
Engage in eye contact. Preschoolers can easily learn courteous greetings. After being introduced by an adult, the child should extend their hand, smile and say, “Hello. My name is Ethan Smith.” Eye contact with the adult is important to show the child’s respect for his elder.
The family dinner table is another opportunity to observe good manners. Here are a few table manners tips to try:
- Wait for all family members to come to the table before beginning the meal.
- Always set the table in an organized manner.
- Do not speak with food in your mouth.
- Do not reach over people. Ask for an item to be passed to you.
- Do not spit your food back out on your plate.
- Do not stand on or lean back in your chair.
- Do not leave the table until you are excused.
- Do not interrupt adults conversations unless it is an emergency.
- Do not speak loudly. Speak in a conversational tone of voice.
Habits are learned very early in life. It is easier to teach children proper manners from a very young age than to attempt to break their impolite behavior at a later time. Every day holds opportunities to teach positive attitudes and gestures of respect. Become mannerly in your own life first, and then begin teaching your little one what is acceptable behavior and what is not.
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