Instilling Manners From Young
“Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners”
Have you ever been interrupted at a dinner by loud screams of another child from the next table? Not one in distress, but those who scream to get their way? How about kids who are rude and never think to apologise? Those who talk back and never say thank you or sorry?
Thankfully my girls are doing alright in the manners department. Especially when they are in public. But behind closed doors, there is plenty of room for improvement. Kids are forever trying to push their boundaries and we as parents need to guide, to instil discipline and manners from a very young age.
Thoughtful Toddlers: Ages 1-2
Right about 2 years old, your toddler may have experienced some social interactions in play groups and play dates. Set the foundation now and be polite yourself. Guide them to be considerate about other people’s feelings by teaching them to take turns with the toys and sharing the toys. Good manners are fist and foremost being thoughtful and considerate of others.
Teach them magic words like please, thank you and sorry. Greeting people by means of a wave of hello or goodbye at the end of the day.
Another good thing is to train them to sit still at their high chair during meals, instead of having you chase after them around the sitting room. A bit of table manners training will go a long way.
Polite Preschoolers: Ages 3-4
Following simple table etiquette. By the time your children turns 3, they should be able to eat with utensils. I understand some moms may still feed their kids by hand, but do allow them to try to eat independently. Even simple practices like leaning over their plates while eating to reduce mess, basics like chewing with your mouth closed and no talking with your mouth full.
Never wipe your mouth with your clothes, instead ask for a wash cloth or tissue. Sit straight and ask for permission to be excused. Start slowly without overwhelming your child with too many tasks at once. Move on to the next skill once they have mastered one. I try to take a fun approach instead of being overly firm and naggy.
More Magic words. Have your child say “may I…. please.” Role play so that it is fun and kids can respond and practice. A lot of parents forget the importance of “excuse me.” Especially with frugal things like accidental farts or when they need to walk pass someone.
Be sure to prompt your child to thank the host, play dates, elders, guests and friends whether we visit or vice versa. Train them to stop whatever they are doing and to thank them properly. And I suppose it is quite a Malaysian thing for the whole family to gather at the door to see guests off, so be sure to include your child too.
Being kind. Take turns, no grabbing, and to apologise if they hurt someone while playing. Talk to your child about what to do, when it comes to taking turns. For example, teach them to ask if they may have a turn.
And in the event your child is in the wrong, ask them to say what they are sorry for so that can learn what is acceptable and unacceptable. You can even take one step further and teach them to ask if there is anything they can do to make things better.
Courteous Kindergarteners: Ages 5-6
Responding when spoken to and to respond immediately. And I really have trouble with this one. I’m not sure if it’s because she’s occupied or cannot be bothered, but I find this to be most challenging to teach.
This takes a lot of reminding, encouragement and we as parents really need to be good role models and walk the talk. The kids pick up and learn a lot from watching you.
Not interrupting. Not quite there yet, but they are getting better at this. Keep role-playing scenarios with interruptions to help them recognise when they are interrupting. The other method I read up on, with regards to interrupting adult conversations, is for the child to lay one hand on their parents’ and to wait patiently until they acknowledge her.
This method works like a charm for us, but do not keep them waiting for too long. It isn’t very nice or respectful to keep them waiting for long periods of time. At very least acknowledge them, so that they are assured they’re not being ignored.