How to teach manners to toddlers, kids, and tweens

We all want our children to be well-mannered, but we also know how hard it is to convince them to do anything, much less be polite and respectful. With poor role models on television — and right beside them in the classroom — how do you get your kids on the path to good behavior? We spoke to experts about teaching your kids manners at every age.

Baby (0-1 Years):

What Manners to Teach Them:

Politeness in speech: Modulate your tone when you speak to your baby and use social niceties such as “please” and “thank you” when speaking directly to them or in conversations in their presence. Your example will guide them as they learn to speak.
Nice Touch: Gently direct your baby on how to treat parents, siblings and pets. Teach baby not to grab at someone’s face or hair by physically moving their hand and demonstrating a soft stroke on a dog’s back or by rubbing their fingers across your hair. This will teach them limits and introduce the concept of cause and effect in relation to their actions. “Gentleness will translate as they get older into politeness,” says Ian James Corlett, author of E is for Ethics, How to Talk to Kids About Morals, Values, and What Matters Most.
Respect for Others: Practice well-mannered activities in front of your baby, such as holding the door for someone, saying “excuse me” when you bump into them, or picking something up after you drop it. Give commentary to your baby on what you just did and why. “They register this in their minds,” says Healy. “Babies can learn what is appropriate. When the doorbell rings, it is time to go to the door. The subtle cues of listening, watching and acting are being put together piece by piece by young children and babies.”

Toddler (Age 2-3 years):

As toddlers’ grasp on language develops and they begin to move around more, you can begin to practice good manners with them. But during these years, parents must realize that manners are taught, not inherent, and it will take time for the lessons to become ingrained. So repeat, repeat, repeat!

“At this age, play is still not always interactive, but parents can start to remind children to respect others’ space, not grab, not hit. Essentially, this is the time of ‘play nice,'” says Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a child psychologist from Manhattan. And, she stresses, “Parents need to be hands-on during this time, as these concepts are still difficult to understand.”

What Manners to Teach Them:

Sharing: Hartstein recommends saying to children, “Be gentle” and “we have to share,” while taking away the fought-over toy.
Politeness: Practice saying “please” and “thank you” often — but expect to say it a lot before they get it.
Cleanliness: “If they don’t want to clean up, the tendency is to do it for them,” Hartstein says. “But they have to be encouraged to help, and another activity should not be started until the first one is cleaned up.”
Patience: Introduce the concept of “waiting,” which applies to situations as diverse as not interrupting Mom’s phone conversation to allowing a sibling to be first at the sink. “It may be helpful for parents to put their hand on their child’s shoulder or around them to help them wait,” Hartstein suggests. If they persistently try to interrupt adult conversations, teach them to say, “Excuse me, please,” and then give them your attention.

Pre- and Elementary school (Age 4 – 9 years):

As children prepare to attend pre- or elementary school, it’s time to work with them on how to interact with others. Faye Rogaski, a public relations expert and adjunct professor of communications at New York University, started Social Sklz:-), a school to help kids acclimate. (Programs like this are becoming more common in the United States and usually start with kids around 4 years old). Rogaski explains, “I saw that kids were missing the basics — shaking hands, making eye contact — [and were] using ‘like, um, as, yeah,’ excessively in sentences.”

What Manners to Teach Them:

Greetings: Rogaski suggests practicing greetings with kids as young as four. “Teach the basics of a proper greeting with these five steps: eye contact, hands meeting web to web, a smile, a firm shake, and ‘Hi, my name is _______.'” A proper introduction will provide your child with a boost of confidence when meeting their kindergarten teacher. “I find that most of my teen (and college) students don’t know how to properly greet and introduce themselves, but the ability to do so has a tremendous impact not only in self confidence, but of course on how one is perceived,” Rogaski says.
Thank-you Notes: Write thank-you notes with your children. At age 4, they may only sign their name and draw a picture, but they can still dictate the text of the note to you. By 6 or 7, they should be writing the entire note themselves after each birthday party or gift-giving holiday.
Dining Etiquette: Model good dining room behavior at family dinners. “You can’t expect excellent behavior at a restaurant if you’re not practicing at home,” Rogaski says. Teach your children to remain in their seats until they’ve asked to be excused, practice using utensils properly and gently correct transgressions such as talking with a full mouth.

Tweens (Age 10 and up):

With the news from a Kaiser Family Foundation study that kids spend at least seven and a half hours a day plugged into digital media, now is also the time to focus on digital manners. “In many cases, the ways in which tweens and teens are communicating today is foreign to parents,” says Rogaski. “But it’s imperative that you as a parent look into these social media outlets in order to understand and give guidance to children.”

What Manners to Teach Them:

Email Etiquette: “Children should be taught the proper way to send an email to an adult or to someone for the first time,” says Rogaski. “It follows a similar format to a letter. Use of shorthand and a more casual banter is [typically only] appropriate with friends and perhaps family.”
Facebook Etiquette: If you’re comfortable letting your child have a Facebook page, practice reading emails, texts and postings out loud before hitting send to ensure it’s something they would say to someone in a face-to-face setting. A good rule of thumb: if they are posting on a Facebook page, ask them to imagine repeating that status to every person on their friend list. If it’s a comment on someone else’s page, have them imagine saying the words out loud to each of that person’s friends.
Texting Boundaries: Good netiquette applies to text messaging too. If your child has a cell phone, set firm ground rules for when texting is OK and when it’s not (at the dinner table, in the classroom), and be prepared to take the phone away if they violate those rules. And explain what is appropriate to share and what isn’t. “As parents might sit down with children to discuss sex, it’s equally important for parents to acknowledge the act of sending sexually explicit photos,” says Rogaski.

Article Posted 9 years Ago

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