Raising Mr Manners

Monday, November 11th, 2013

I think most of us would agree that we’ve reached the stage where children being seen and not heard is well in the past, but there’s no avoiding the fact that exactly what we do see and hear will form the basis to any outsider’s opinion.

Good manners are both timeless and ageless. Throughout your life you will be judged on yours, which will directly affect the friendships you make, the jobs you win and the way you are treated by the general public. Etiquette in itself may be regarded as quaint or out-dated to some degree, but it is important. And it’s never too early for your kids to learn some.

Pleases and thank yous

Let’s start with the basics. ג€˜Please’ and ג€˜thank you’ are gold-plated words that are integral to everyday life, but are so often missing from the pre-schooler’s vocabulary. There’s no excuse for this as it can be ingrained into your child from a very early age. When passing over a favourite toy, keep hold of it and repeat the words ג€˜thank you’ to your child (or ג€˜ta’ for a younger talker), and don’t let her have it until she copies you. Very quickly she will learn that there is an expected response on being given something. ג€˜Please’ can be taught in a very similar fashion. Give your child plenty of praise when she gets it right and correct her when she forgets.

Taking turns

When it comes to making friends, it’s so important for your child to realise she’s not the only one. While turn-taking in itself isn’t manners, accepting other people’s wishes is and your child will go a lot further in life if she learns to apply a little equality to her social skills. To start with, turn-taking needs to be monitored, but again, if sharing is ingrained into her play from early on, then it will soon become second nature.

Table manners

Table manners are governed by a number of rules, some of which are more applicable to older children than younger ones. No one’s expecting a two-year-old to delicately enquire, ג€˜Daddy, could you please pass the salt?’ but what should be taught from as early as possible is that there should be no shouting at the table, no smearing of food all over faces, clothes or tablemats, no getting down and running around, and throwing food is an absolute no-no.

Table manners are best taught by patient repetition and leading by example. For advice on dining out with your kids, read our blog entitled Dinnertime Drama.

Physical manners

Toddlers are naturally curious about all bodily functions, and this is the perfect time to educate them on how to behave in public. Teach your little one that picking noses and scratching bottoms is not acceptable in front of others, nor is leaving the toilet unflushed. Make a joke of it by saying, ג€˜Urgh, yuck, that’s disgusting!’ as children often take far more notice if you make it funny.

Equally, make a game of it when your toddler burps, sneezes, coughs or passes gas ג€“ teach him when to say ג€˜excuse me’ and when to say ג€˜bless you’ and it’ll soon come naturally as your little Mr Manners basks in the admiration of his grown-up behaviour.

Traditional manners

In this immediate world of texts, emails and instant messaging, a proper thank you letter or card goes a long way, particularly with other children’s parents and the older generation. When your child receives a gift, encourage her to respond appropriately by either writing her appreciation (if she’s old enough) or maybe drawing a picture to demonstrate how much she loves it. It would be a terrible shame if all our kids grew up thinking it was enough just to accept a present without a second thought for the time, care and money that has been spent on choosing, buying and wrapping it.

Bryony Sutherland thanks you for taking the time to read this article.

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