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How To Teach Kids Manners

Jul 18, 2014

Manners are an important part of the way human beings interact with one another. There are a myriad of things that one should teach their children in regards to proper etiquette. Positive social interactions depend on whether or not children have good manners, and every parent will have to address the way children approach situations and how they respond to the people around them. Parents can teach children manners, and whether this is through little chats, teachable moments, or demonstrations, kids benefit greatly from watching the people they look up to most as they're exercising correct etiquette and good manners.

Foundation of Selflessness and Empathy

One of the first things parents should attempt to develop in their children is selflessness. Teaching children this cornerstone of manners has a chain reaction effect. Obstetrician Shamsah Amersi explains that when a child is aware the world is not solely about them, they are better able to empathize with others. The development of empathy causes children to become more helpful and thoughtful, which results in a child creating a good foundation of manners to build upon when learning the intricacies of social etiquette.

Dinner Table Demonstrations

Family dinners are an excellent place to develop the basics table manners, but this is also the perfect place to introduce some small, yet vital details of social etiquette. The dinner table provides a highly interactive experience for children to learn what is and isn't appropriate to say and do when in the presence of others in a less casual scenario. Sociologist Christine Carter explains that eating together around the table has many benefits for young minds. These benefits include better grades, a lower risk of depression and substance abuse, as well as healthier eating habits. While children and parents are reconnecting over dinner after a long day apart, there are minute demonstrations of manners being performed that lead children down the correct path by way of observation and mirroring of what parents are doing and saying. This may very well be where some children learn niceties such as please, thank you, may I, and excuse me. These are the building blocks of a greater understanding of how to effectively communicate with elders as well as peers.

The Art Of Asking

When children first learn about expressing their needs and desires, they're not used to making polite requests. Kids are basic in their communications with mom and dad from the very beginning. It can be very easy for children to fall into a pattern of demanding for things instead of asking, and it is a parent's job to make sure that their child understands the correct way to make requests of others without running the risk of offending someone. A demanding child has habits that may seem difficult to break, but parenting consultant Barbara Olinger shows that children can easily unlearn three word grunts for a snack and transform their basic-minded demands into polite questions and requests. With a little persistence and presentation of proper examples that children quickly absorb, they are primed to ask for what they need and what they want without being off-putting or rude.

Introducing Social Interactions

Play dates are the first situations where children are able to put their manners and etiquette into practice. Etiquette expert Lisa Gache acknowledges the existence of two separate roles that could be played during a play date depending on the scenario. Hosts have a chance to be gracious and flexible. Children learn manners, how to accommodate others in this role and they are forced to understand and anticipate the needs of their guest, which is effective for developing a better sense of selflessness. On the other hand, being a guest can be a little more complicated. Children will have a natural urge to trample all over their host with demands and requests based on the selfish desires of the moment. However, with additional guidance, coaching, and practice, children will be able to exercise enough impulse control to understand that their desires are not always the primary concern of a host, as they may not be the only guest and a host must also have an enjoyable experience themselves. Flexibility is key to whatever role is played.

Gratitude Without The Attitude

The most paramount aspect of manners is a sense of gratitude for whatever your child has received and whatever has been done for them. At first, you can point out to younger children the things during their day that they may be thankful for and why that is. Educate them on how they can express their gratitude for people or things. Eventually, they should be able to do this without being told. Children will also learn the importance of possessing weighted words that have authenticity to them when expressing their gratitude.  Actress Alysia Reiner shares a touching story of the moment when her daughter began to say 'thank you' and wonderfully illustrates the value of teaching children about appreciation.

Although there may be days where children aren't up to the task of putting their newly learned skills to the test, it is still important to be persistent in your quest to show your children how to show appreciation, consideration, and poise when with others. This will help them to make positive new connections with the peers and adults in their lives. These are all important aspects of etiquette to learn that will stimulate your child's personal development. Guidance remains the best teacher, and when parents play an active role in nurturing their children's growth in the area of manners, children are bound to excel.


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Manners can be hard to instill and I definitely suggest parents start early!

My teen boys have the worst manners. I am going to make them watch some of the manner videos here!

My friends went to an etiquette class and they always correct me on my etiquette. 

Teaching gratititude to your kids is so important and will help them be more positive and happy throughout their lives as well.

Our kids are really polite and I think it's because they have had really great teachers that have helped reinforce the things we teach them in the home.

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