Teaching kids manners today is more important than ever. Why? Because of the tech-driven society, many kids are losing the ability to develop social skills. By staring at their phones and screens all day, looking someone in the eyes and interacting with them in a polite way just doesn’t come naturally. A child who never learns how to be respectful or polite will become a teen who has trouble making friends and can’t interact with peers or elders, and ultimately an adult who simply makes a poor impression when they walk in a room and meets others.
Whether the occasion is a holiday gathering, a school function, or a simple trip to the store, parents can use these social opportunities to instill good manners in their children that will become a habitual part of their lives into adolescence and beyond. “Please,” “excuse me,” and “thank you” are still the basics of a polite vocabulary, but don’t fool yourself by believing that just because you remind your kids to use these words, it will automatically become second nature. It takes consistency to instill a new habit.
Manners need to be taught, shown, and reinforced by parents and other adults who have influence over your kids. Here’s how:
Teach polite words at an early age
Even toddlers can learn to say “please” and “thank you.” Even though they don’t yet understand the social impact of these words, a two-year-ld concludes that “please” is how you get what you want and “thank you” is how you end the conversation. Make sure they hear you use them consistently because children parrot these terms and understand their usefulness long before they understand their meaning.
Teach your kids not to interrupt
Reinforce that they should not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will begin to realize that the adults will notice them and respond to them when they are finished talking. If they absolutely do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for them to enter the conversation.
The importance of table manners
Enforce the idea of table manners. Teach them to not reach across the table to get something, but instead ask if someone can pass it to them. Children should also learn to keep their napkins in their laps, their elbows off the table, and their mouths closed while they chew.
The right way to accept compliments
Children who know how to politely accept compliments grow up to be adults who know how to politely accept compliments. An honest compliment should always be accepted with a simple, “Thank you. That’s so kind of you to say.” While some kids may be tempted to shrug off the compliment or crack a joke at their own expense, they should recognize that it’s ok to accept the compliment with a smile.
How to introduce people
Teach your kids how to introduce people to one another. “Dad, this is my friend Jason”, or “Mrs. Grant, I want you to meet my cousin Sara.” On the flip side, teach kids to shake hands, to make eye contact, and to offer a word of welcome when they meet new people. There’s a reason why they say first impressions make a big impact. Because it’s true.
Thank you notes
Writing thank you notes teaches kids about the value of gratitude. It reminds them to focus on the person who gave them the gift, rather than the gift itself. And thank-you notes don’t have to be reserved for physical gifts: Your kids can write them in appreciation of good friendship or fun playdates. Nothing elaborate is necessary, but the effect is always memorable.
This is a tough one for many kids. Help your children understand the importance of sharing with others in school and in life. Encourage good behavior by complimenting them when you see them sharing with others. And make sure to let them know that its the kind of behavior you expect.
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