Ask any parent of a spirited, energetic, strong-willed child what their biggest struggle is, and they will most likely respond the same way I do: “I need to teach my girl to respect boundaries and obey, but do it in a way I won’t be crushing her independent spirit.” I adore my girl’s personality and the fact that she’s not a pushover, but, wow, she’s a tough one to parent and set limits with because she truly believes she can do it all on her own, until she can’t and frustration (read “wild tantrums”) sets in.
Not only is it hard to set limits with a spirited child, it’s also a challenge to teach them proper etiquette and manners because they seriously don’t want to be told what to do. The obvious is to lead by example and hope they will follow cue, but my girl is always absorbed in her non-stop babbling, playing and movement that she just doesn’t pause much to let in the needed “Please” or “Thank you.”
On top of it all, she was born into the Latino culture which is ultra conscious of manners and proper etiquette as a sign of class and education. My mom swears and brags that when I was a toddler she could take me to the fanciest restaurant and I would sit still and quietly and not even make a mess or a fuss. She honestly brags about this as an accomplishment. Then I turn and look at my girl sitting at the dinner table with her legs wide open, one knee banging on the edge, her fingers full of the ketchup which will go straight into her mouth for a licking. Not quite the same scene.
Since modeling the behavior and asking or demanding her to act with proper manners aren’t really working as strategies, I’ve decided to collect a series of children’s books that teach the manners I so desperately want her to learn – and the ones that annoy me the most!
Nose picking…yuck! 1 of 7This has to be one of the most annoying and disgusting displays of bad manners, but it's a normal habit for young kids. When consistent nagging doesn't do it, then open up "Don't Do That!" by Tony Ross to read together the story of a little nose-picking girl who learned the hard and embarrassing way why parents must nag.
Interrupting + waiting for your turn 2 of 7I can't remember the last time my husband and I had an uninterrupted conversation when my daughter was in the room. I remember I used to get scolded about doing that all the time, so I get where it comes from! "My Mouth is a Volcano," by Julia Cook is a fun way to talk to your child about how important it is to be patient, a good listener and respect others by not interrupting.
Being Thankful 3 of 7An "Awesome Book of Thanks," by Dallas Clayton, is a wonderful and simple way to teach our children to be thankful about the simple things. More than a book on manners, it's a book on learning to appreciate everything in our lives, which, to me, is part of being a well-mannered being.
Fighting…and apologizing 4 of 7Kids fight, argue and get emotional with each other all the time. It's up to the parents to teach them how to navigate their emotions and learn how to apologize and/or forgive. On "Dora's Book of Manners," our bilingual amiga Dora teaches the Grumpy Old Troll and his friend Mouse how to apologize after a fight. Manners and Spanish words in one book!
Sharing is caring 5 of 7The classic "Manners Can be Fun," by Munro Leaf has been teaching kids for decades now how to be gracious and well-mannered individuals. Kids learn with characters like the Mefirsts and Whineys why it's important to share, be good listeners, and be compassionate of other's needs.
Saying 6 of 7"Time to Say 'Please'" is a Mo Williams book, you know it's gonna be good! In this book, the technique most parents use in ignoring their kids' demands until they say the "magic words" of "Please," "Thank you," and such, is put to the test.
Table Manners 7 of 7Do you sometimes feel like you truly have a dinosaur -- or more! -- at your table? With Yolen and Teague's "How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food," kids learn that young dinosaurs also need help learning how to properly eat a meal without spills, tantrums and messes.
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Check out the forthcoming book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.
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