If you're a parent, grandparent, or teacher, you know the old saying that children are like sponges is true; they tend to soak up everything and every influence around them. Manners need to be taught, shown, and reinforced by parents and other adults who have the authority of them.
Charm Schools and Finishing Schools
Years ago, "finishing schools" were considered essential for all girls and many boys. Although some of them still exist, many parents don't feel the need to send their children. They're right, but only if they're willing to take the time to teach the lessons on social behavior.
If you aren't sure about what is or isn't proper, consider looking into charm schools in your area. You might even want to ask if you can go through the program with your child. Not only will you learn something, but it will also be a fun family experience. If they won't allow parents, you might ask if they offer a similar program for adults so you can reinforce what your children are taught.
Another option if you can't find an in-person charm school is an online etiquette class. You and your children can sign up and participate in the privacy of your home.
While teaching your children manners, consider what is age appropriate, their ability to follow them, and who they'll be around. Older family members will expect something completely different from what their peers will respond to. They also need to learn that some of their friends might have bad manners, and it is not okay to follow them.
Here are some tips to help teach manners to your children:
- Model manners. If you want your child to have good manners, you must make sure you do as well. This is definitely not an area in which you can get them to do as you say and not as you do. The first step to having a mannerly child is being a mannerly parent.
- Practice at home. It is unrealistic for your child to just pick up the habit of good manners by telepathy. He or she needs to know what the rules are. Tell your child, put them in writing, and try including them in fun, playtime etiquette activities.
- Take them out in public. Once you've taught and reinforced the manners rules at home, take your children out to casual restaurants, the library, the shopping mall, and other places where they can practice what they've learned.
- Give him or her the words. There are 5 polite words and phrases that should be among the first in every child's primary vocabulary. These should be used while speaking to babies, toddlers, and children. "Please," "thank you," "May I, "Excuse me," and "No thank you," should be required.
- Give your youngster positive reinforcement. Children love praise, especially when it comes from a parent or someone they respect. Very often parents respond only to their children's undesirable behavior, ignoring their victories and positive actions. This choice may actually have the reverse result. Children want attention any way they can get it, even if that means doing bad things. Encourage them when they are polite.
- Be patient. It is true that most children are self-centered by nature. Every parent recognizes this very early in the parenting charge, and it's up to you to turn this around. Teach them the importance of respecting other people's feelings and needs. As they learn to listen more, speak less, have empathy for others, and humble themselves, their Golden Rule behavior will begin to shine forth.
- Learn to coach. Many people are finding that they need someone to not only hold them accountable but to listen to their dreams, desires, and goals. Help your child to establish social goals that will better equip him or her for daily interpersonal communication and interaction. It is no secret that people don't really like to be around others who are rude and obnoxious. No parent wants this for their child. Make a point to sit down and talk with them and listen to areas of struggle they may have when interacting with other people.
- Teach table manners. Proper etiquette obviously includes table manners, so start teaching your children the basics from a very early age. Use age-appropriate lessons and reward them for following the rules.
- Correct him or her on the spot. Very young children often times don't realize what they are doing. For example, if you are speaking with a friend, your child might think it's okay to interrupt you. Beg your friend's pardon and let your child know that his or her interruption is inappropriate. Do this for any infraction your child commits. Make sure you use sensitivity in these types of situations. If you have an overly sensitive child, you might want to excuse yourself and speak with him or her privately.
- Speak well. Speech habits are so important. Often parents may sabotage their children's speech patterns by using language they don't want their children to mimic. Again, this is an area in which you need to model the correct behavior. Unless you want your child to speak in a sloppy, slang-ridden way, be well-spoken yourself.
- Lose the prejudices. Your children are going to model your biases. If you hold strong opinions about a particular group or person, you should not make this a public point. Teach your children to judge a person by their character and not their race, gender, religion, or nationality.
Happy Home and Social Life
Teaching your children manners is good for both their home and social life. They'll attract friends who enjoy being around positive, well-mannered people. There will be more joy in the home and less strife, which gives everyone in the family a more solid relationship that will carry through to adulthood.