Teaching Manners to Children

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In a time when kids are encouraged to express themselves and develop at their own pace, certain conventions like good manners tend to fall to the wayside.

You can let your child discover the world – politely.

What, exactly, is it that a child explores when he is rude to someone else? How much he can get away with, perhaps? How evil he has to be before receiving instruction from his parents?

In many ways, some parenting could be called ‘non-traditional.' You may not a stickler for language or eating peas before ice cream, nor do you carefully map out Johnny's TV time by the minute. However, should the little guy snatch the remote control away and change the channel or take his father's ice cream without permission or curse with abandon at the dog, then his whole world immediately comes to a grinding halt as he gets a lesson on good manners from his mother.

Exploration is one thing. Bucking convention in favor of taking risks and pushing limits is commendable. But doing so in such a way as it hurts someone else? Not acceptable. For example, there are a few things in particular that are nonnegotiable.
• No name calling. If something bothers you, learn to identify what it is and tell the person. Name calling makes the situation worse.

• No cutting in line, snatching things from people, or interrupting loudly when others are speaking. Patience is a virtue. Wait your turn.

• Be friendly to strangers. Things like making eye contact, saying ‘hello' and ‘goodbye' and ‘it was nice meeting you' can take you far in this world.

• In the same way, ‘please,' ‘thank you,' ‘you're welcome,' ‘yes, ma'am,' and ‘yes, sir' also increase your chances of success in any situation.

• Cleaning up after oneself and even doing a chore that obviously needs to be done without being asked is more than just good manners. It develops a sense of responsibility and awareness.

• For little boys, treating women well is essential. This means opening doors and pulling out chairs, listening when they speak, and respecting their opinions. For everyone, this applies to anyone older than you are. Quite simply, it's good manners.

• Winning and losing graciously. This falls more under the category of skills than manners, but it's crucial.

• Open mindedness is another skill that is less mannerly, but absolutely imperative. Learning to accept people despite differences in beliefs, skin color, ethnicity, culture, manner, ability, etc. could be considered good manners by some standards and a philosophical way of life by others.

• Pointing fingers and whispering? Well, you're not making any friends that way, that's for sure.

On the other hand, should someone try to take advantage of his kindness or generosity, Johnny knows that he doesn't have to continue being polite as if he were programmed to do so. He is a person. He has a feelings. It's okay to express them. Stand up for yourself when confronted. That can be just as important as learning good manner.

What it ultimately comes down to is respect. Johnny doesn't have to stand there and let anyone talk down to him or treat him badly, no matter how old that person is. He knows never to cut someone down, never to start a fight, and to always walk away from negative situations if possible. He is taught to give respect to everyone automatically but also to stand up for himself when someone hurts him. Manners are a matter of boundaries and balance, meant to protect him and help him go as far as he can in the world and never stop exploring.

You might also find the following helpful:

Age-Appropriate Manners and Lessons

Parent's Survival Guide to Puberty

Bullying in Schools

Giving More Attention

Cleaning Their Rooms