As poet and writer Margaret Walker said, “Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go.” Give your children an advantage by instructing them in proper manners while they are young so that those manners will become second nature by the time they reach adulthood. Making a checklist of the manners that are most important to your family can help keep you focused on this noble task.
When you teach table manners to your children, start with the basics: wait until everyone else is seated before you begin eating, chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with food in your mouth. After those concepts become second nature, gently remind your tot to keep his elbows off of the table during mealtime and to lay his napkin in his lap. When little Sammy wants a second helping, teach him to ask politely, “May I please have some more?” and “Thank you.” At the end of the meal, encourage him to clear his dishes off the table. And above all else, no burping!
Please and Thank You
“Please” and “thank you” are common themes in children’s educational programming, so at least you know that the big, purple dinosaur is backing you up when you constantly remind your toddler to use these words. Praise your child each time she remembers to say “please” or “thank you” without prompting, and demonstrate how to use the words frequently throughout each day. Remind your preschooler to thank her friend’s parents after a playdate at their house, and show her how to write a thank-you note for birthday and holiday gifts.
Kindness and Respect
Good manners mean showing kindness and respect to others, whether playing with friends or spending time with adults. Teach your preschooler to approach an injured child on the playground and ask, “Are you OK? Can I help you?” Instead of assuming he can join an ongoing game, encourage him to say, “Excuse me, can I play with you?” Simply looking another person in the eye while speaking and saying “I’m sorry” when he has done something wrong can endear him to others as a well-mannered child. Never allow your child to call other kids insulting names or to tease anyone.
A lot of little behaviors add up to having good manners. Blowing your nose, sneezing into your elbow and saying “excuse me” after passing gas are small actions that carry a lot of weight in the politeness realm. Other manners that many take some time for your child to remember are speaking quietly indoors, holding the door open for others as they approach and not picking her nose. Although she may feel strongly about something, teach her to keep negative opinions to herself in polite company.