It is no secret that the fact that there is a lack of manners in our world today impacts what we do. We say we want polite, respectful children, but we must do the work. Teaching kids manners not only assists their social skills but it also builds confidence. The adults in the lives of all our children need to take this responsibility seriously.
Many people these days are decrying the absence of manners in our world. So it makes sense that if this is the case, children perhaps are not being taught manners, or at least not being taught in the same way they might have been in the past.
The first question to ask in order for everyone to be on the same page is: What are manners anyway?
While it is true that by the age of two many children somehow are learning the words “please” and “thank you,” the question becomes how do we do we teach meanings as opposed to just repeating them by rote. Similarly, little children seem to understand what “that’s not nice,” and “good boy” or “good girl” connotes a positive or negative observation on the part of the adult(s) in their lives.
So in a general way, it is at this time that the concept of manners not only can but should be introduced.
While you can start by telling the children what manners are, but younger aged children might not be able to internalize the actual words and send them back out into action. So it would be a great idea to demonstrate just what they are. Just what is a polite behaviour? Just what does that polite behaviour do to show respect (and what is respect, of course?)?
A bit earlier the point was made that the concepts of “not nice” and “good” are ways of getting into proper behavior. One way of capturing the essence of these behaviors is to indicate that if no one was polite, we would be grabbing things (like one another’s toys) while being bossy at the same time. Please and thank you are foundational words and concepts.
Some other polite behaviours for discussion are such things as:
• Waiting your turn
• Not interrupting
• Saying thank you
• Don’t push
• Clean up your mess
• Don’t hit or bite
When teaching kids about manners, it is just as important to “read” your audience just as you would if you were presenting to a group of adults. While the topics are serious, sometimes the children respond to humor. Engage the “cut up” in the group and use that to your advantage.