As a parent, there are many things you need to teach your child. For instance, how to tie their shoes laces, brush their teeth, and use a knife and fork to eat. But your teaching goes far beyond practical skills.
One of the most important things you can teach your child is the art of manners.
Saying “please” and “thank you” is the most basic thing in the world, yet it’s also one of the most important. Manners extends to being respectful to other people, showing empathy, and making a good impression.
It’s quite surprising how many children don’t show good manners these days. Perhaps it’s a generational shift or something that people think is ingrained from birth, with no need to teach. Yet, as a parent, it’s your job to make sure your child understands why manners are important in life.
Why Do We Need Manners?
Think back to the last time someone pushed in line when you were waiting at the supermarket, or someone barged into you and didn’t say sorry. You were probably momentarily angry and considered them rude. That’s exactly how we’re programmed to think when someone doesn’t display decent manners.
Having good manners means that you show respect to other people. For your child, that means they show respect to other children, adults, and their teachers. But it goes further than that.
Showing manners, such as saying “thank you”, shows that you appreciate a person and what they did for you. It shows that you can be thoughtful of others and show empathy to the people around you. It shows gratitude and helps people to see you as a good person, rather than someone who is rude and disrespectful.
Manners are vital in every part of life, from childhood into adulthood. For children, instilling manners early means that they’ll become second nature as they grow. Then, when they start to go into the big wide world, they’ll be received much more positively than if they walked around expecting the world to do them a favour.
Of course, the earlier you teach your children manners, the easier it will be for them to understand and take on the habit.
How to Teach Your Child Good Manners
Do you remember how your parents taught you good manners? You probably don’t remember actually learning and it’s as though it’s something you were born knowing how to do.
Well, you weren’t born with manners, your parents did indeed teach you, but it’s likely they taught you so young, it’s been something ingrained in your psyche from a very early age. As before, the earlier you get started, the easier it will be.
Remember The ‘Why’
It’s not only about how to teach your child manners, but also helping them to understand why they’re important. If someone is rude to them or doesn’t say “thank you”, highlight that behaviour quietly. You could say “that little boy didn’t say “thank you”, that’s very rude, isn’t it?”
This method will teach your child what it feels like when someone doesn’t show them basic respect through manners. They will then see that manners are important because they don’t like the way it feels when someone treats them that way.
Be a Role Model
Of course, if you want your child to learn something, you have to do it too. You cannot teach them about manners if you don’t show good manners yourself!
Be aware of your position as a role model and show good manners to your child and those around you. It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s a vital part of teaching your child about good social behaviours.
Children emulate their parents to a large amount, so if you want your child to always say “please” and “thank you” and to show respect to everyone around them, you have to do it first and allow them to see it in action.
Start With The Basics
Manners aren’t just about “please” and “thank you”, it goes far beyond that, but you need to start with the basics first and the rest will follow. So, when your child gives you a hug, say “thank you for that cuddle”, or ask them to pass you the salt at the dinner table, by saying “please could you pass mummy the salt?” And then say “thank you” when they do.
The basics will be the first things to stick in your child’s mind and the more you do it around the house, the more they’ll understand and use them themselves. From there, you can move up to saying “sorry” and other manner-related behaviours, such as picking up someone’s coat when they’re dropped it on the floor, or holding a door open for someone.
Don’t Expect Miracles Overnight
Manners might be a no-brainer to you, but they’re not to your child. Remember, your child doesn’t understand the importance of manners at this point and they’re relying on you to show them. So, don’t become discouraged or frustrated if your child doesn’t catch on straight away.
A good way to encourage your child to say “please” and “thank you” is to prompt them. If they say they want a drink, you can say, “what do you say when you ask for something?” And once you have given them what they want, repeat, “now what do you say?”
Prompting your child will slowly teach them about the words they need to say when they want something and when they’re given something. Remember, children learn through repetition, so this is something you need to be intentional in doing.
It won’t happen overnight, but soon enough your child will take on this habit.
Praise Good Results
When your child displays good manners, praise them to show that they’ve done the right thing. If they say, “thank you” when you give them a drink, say “good job” and smile. That will show your child that by saying “thank you” they’ve done a good thing and they’re more likely to repeat it because everyone likes praise.
If you have more than one child in the house, you’ll need to be intentional in doing this for every child, because consistency is key. If your child sees that you do the same thing for their siblings, they’ll understand that manners are a key part of life and something they should do.
Of course, if you catch your child showing good manners to someone around them, be it a sibling or a teacher, praise them for that too. This means they’re learning because they’re showing good manners without being prompted.
Incorporate Gratitude Into Your Teaching
Once your child has mastered the basics, you can move onto gratitude. This is a key part of manners.
Being polite and showing gratitude are very important things in life and your child needs to learn these as early as possible. As such, they’ll thrive much better in school and into their adult years.
Of course, there are other benefits to being polite and showing gratitude too. When children embrace gratitude, it helps them to feel better about themselves, builds confidence, and helps them to see their place in the world; i.e., it’s not all about them. It also helps to build empathy.
Start as Early as Possible
When your child is as young as 18 months, it’s not too early to start teaching them good manners. They may not understand why they need to say “please” and “thank you” at this point, but instilling the need this early is beneficial. Over time, they will then learn the reasons why politeness is a good thing.
An innovative way to teach your child good manners is to use puppets and to act out a show. You can create a puppet show where the characters have some kind of exchange, and one shows manners and the other doesn’t. Then, you can ask your child questions about what the ‘rude’ character should have done.
Remember, children learn when they’re playing, so this is a great way to get the message across.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Set boundaries with your child and if they don’t show good manners, make sure they know that you’re not pleased with them. Do this with the knowledge that it takes a while to form a habit. But if they don’t say “thank you” when they are given something and you’ve asked them what they should say, with no reply, tell them that you’re not pleased.
You can say, “you know that you should say “thank you””
If you’re going to let them know that you’re not pleased with something they’ve done or not done, it’s important to explain why and to tell them what they ‘should have’ done. If you don’t do this, you’re going to confuse them, and this could learn to more negative behaviour.
Manners Aren’t a Lost Art
You might wonder if manners are lost in the current day and age, but they’re as important now as they ever were.
Teaching your child good manners and why it’s important will allow them to create strong and lasting relationships as they move through their life. You have a huge role to play here and starting the process as early as possible is a key step forward.