Manners are still an important aspect of development for children. It is up to parents to make sure that their kids master simple manners. There is no need for them to learn how to act in front of the Queen, but being able to navigate everyday “please’s” “thank you’s,” and “excuse me’s” is a must.
Here are a few tips on how to instill manners in your kids without them even knowing. And, you don’t even have to be Emily Post to do it!
Start Simple, Start Early
“Start while they’re young,” said Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and author of Let Crazy Be Crazy, in an interview with Parenting.com. Words such as “thank you” or “please” should unquestionably be a part of their early learned vocabulary.
“Some parents assume that manners are too formal,” says Sheryl Eberly, speaker and author of 365 Manners Every Kid Should Know. “That’s a mistake—it’s a small discipline for a child to recognize manners and show respect.”
When training children, consistency is key. That goes for potty training, sports, and yes, manners too.
Swann suggests implementing “seven minutes of manners” a day or a week with older kids and tweaking that to “two or three minutes for toddlers.” Focus on things such as, “Here’s why it’s nice to say, ‘bless you’ after a sneeze.” This will help the lessons become part of their routine and help them absorb what is being taught. “Don’t just wait for the important moments,” says Swann. “When they’re little, their attention span and vocabulary is limited, so be consistent.”
Model Good Manners
If you do it, they will do it. If you are teaching your children manners, then you should be modeling the behavior that you are teaching.
Claire Lerner, child development and parenting expert and founder of Lerner Child Development, says modeling “should be an empowering message because it’s completely within your control.”
Children love pretending; therefore, role playing is a great way to help you teach.
“You don’t want to teach a child to hold in their natural reaction and not get their words out,” says Robyn Koslowitz, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and founder of the Targeted Parenting Institute.
Manners should come naturally and not be forced. Lerner states that, “If they don’t have tools, that’s when things go south.”
Lead with Kindness
“I’m not so into teaching etiquette as much as teaching the concept of kindness,” says Dr. Koslowitz. “The more polite you are, the more comfortable you’re making people.”
If parents take this approach to helping teach manners, then they are more likely to understand and respond as this is less of a of something that they “have” to do and more of a natural way to make everyone involved feel good.
If you take the time to help your children approach manners from this perspective, they’ll be more likely to understand, and respond. Manners become a value system.