“Mom, get me some more milk.” “Mom, we have to leave right now or I’ll be late for practice!” Do these statements sound familiar? Human beings are not born with an innate set of proper manners and good behaviors. Children learn to be polite from their parents. Unfortunately, in today’s overscheduled families the importance of teaching good manners falls at the end of our long to-do list. True as the shortage of time may be, teaching good manners is critical to your child’s success in life. People who consistently display good manners and social skills are happier and more confident than those who don’t.
With gentle reminders, children as young as two years old can begin saying, “please” and “thank you” just as a three year old is capable of answering a question asked of him. If your child immediately looks to you for help, smile and encourage him to answer. Try to avoid the temptation to speak for your child - you’ll be missing a valuable teaching opportunity.
Teach your children to stand up and offer a handshake when they greet someone, and make eye contact when they are speaking or spoken to. Role-play different situations with your child to help teach the difference between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to say aloud. Yes, it is unusual for someone to have blue hair and multiple face piercings, but it would be unacceptable to blurt out a rude comment. Tell your child that although honesty is the best policy, silence can be golden. Show him it is possible to approach almost every situation without using words that may cause hurt or embarrassment.
With regard to interrupting, the most effective remedy I’ve found, that worked so well for me when my children were young, is to explain to your child that if you are speaking and he wants your attention, he is to gently place his hand on you and leave it there as a signal to you he needs your attention. Seamlessly continue talking as you glance at your child to acknowledge his desire for your attention. When you are done speaking, make eye contact with your child, gently remove his hand, thank him for waiting, and give him your undivided attention.
Using good manners is a skill like any other, mastered with consistent practice and praise. Most importantly, if you want your children to be respectful of others, they should also be treated with respect.
And finally, remember the words of the uncompromising Emily Post: “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
Kirsten Berger Coaching