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Entries in manners (1)

Tuesday
Nov122013

Teachable Moments: Manners

‘Tis the season for being thankful. As the Thanksgiving season approaches, we begin to think about thankfulness and gratitude - we talk about things that we’re “thankful for” and may contribute to holiday charity projects. I wrote about gratitude at this time last year, but I think it’s important that these actions not just span the holiday season, but instead get incorporated into our everyday lives. Beyond just teaching gratitude, how do you teach your children to be respectful, thoughtful, and considerate? In short, how do you teach them good manners? I love this quote from 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.”

You can start to teach manners from an early age, even before your children can speak! To start, be a good role model for your children. Thank them (and others) for doing things that you appreciate. Don’t interrupt. Be thoughtful and courteous to others. Be respectful to your significant other. To your children, your actions may speak louder than your words...and they will catch on quicker than you think!

In addition to being a good role model, there are little things you can do to teach your children awareness and consideration of others. Emily Post’s Etiquette does a great job highlighting these suggestions - check out these excerpts below:

For the child age 1-3:

Communication

Magic words.  Among the first words you teach your toddler are the classic magic words Please and Thank you.  Children will tell you years later that saying "please" is the first manner they learned.

Greetings.  Toddlers may hide behind your knee, but even the shyest can learn to say a clear "hello" with a smile.  This skill takes practice, so help them along.

Conversation.  Read books, go to different places, watch television together, and listen to music.  Then talk about what you've just done together.  Even if they have a small vocabulary, toddlers can respond to things you hold in common especially as they approach three year olds.

Table Manners

The children in this age group can manage a meal lasting twenty or so minutes.

 - While they're at the table with you, be sure to include them in the conversation.

- Give them soft foods they can manage with a spoon.

- Bibs are still their napkins.

- Food is for eating.  Throwing or playing with food is a definite cue that they've reacher their limit and you need to end their meal.  Be firm, and help them leave the table.  They can still play in the same room.

Out and About

- During visits to the doctor or dentist for their checkups, children learn to wait.  Read them a book or play a quiet game to show them strategies for waiting.

- Demonstrate courteous behavior with service people everywhere.  Children learn by watching you.

- In the car, never negotiate when safety is at stake.

- Be firm about car seats.

- Keep a small bag of activities that your toddler can do while riding in a car.

- Yelling, screaming, crying, kicking - pull over and park.  Begin driving only when your child has calmed down.

For the child age 3-5:

Kids in this age group are developing manual dexterity and confidence as they take on increasingly complex skills. They interact with peers and adults in structured play groups or daycare.

Communication

Magic words.  This is the time children begin to "write" their own thank-you notes: A child tells his parent what he likes about the gift, the parent writes the short thank-you note, and the child adds a drawing or "Signs" his name.  Children this age can also be expected to say "thank you." They'll need reminding often, but don't give up.  By the time they're four or five, they can also add "excuse me" and "you're welcome" to their list of magic words.

Conversation.  At this age children are learning the fundamental skills of good conversation.  You can help by reminding them to:

- Speak slowly and clearly.

- Not interrupt unless it's an emergency.

- Take turns talking.

Phones.  While some three-five-year-olds have a difficult time on the phone, it's time for them to try at least a simple hello.  At first it's helpful if the person on the other end is someone they see and speak to often - Dad or Grandma, for example.  When they are only three or four, kids may simply look at the phone and refuse to say anything. Encourage them to say hello but if they don't, gently take back the phone and try again another time.

Table Manners

This is a building time - a perfect time to teach manners at the table.  Children this age can:

- Add forks to their repertoire of eating utensils.

- Put napkins on their laps (definitely by the time they are five).

- Chew with their mouths closed.

- Participate in table conversations, so be sure to include them.

- Ask to be excused when finished eating, especially if others plan to stay longer at the table.

- Help with simple table setting and clearing.

Out and About

At this age children are with you throughout the day as you do your errands and daily activities.

- Encourage them to help load the grocery cart and unload small bags at home.

- This is a time to reinforce basic manners with service people in a variety of venues - shops, restaurants, banks or post office - and with people who provide service to you at home.

When out and about, you can help your child learn from what he observes.  Point out and talk about examples of good manners and bad behavior.  "That lady was so nice to the checkout person when she said "Thank you" or (out of earshot) "Did you notice how that man let the door slam on the woman behind him?


I think anyone would say that it is pleasant to be around a well-mannered person, both as an adult and a child. When manners are learned early, they become a habit and a lifelong skill. Manners aren’t taught overnight, however, so it is important to start early, be consistent, and praise your child for treating others kindly.