Why good manners are everything (and how to instil them)

Kristen Harding, Childcare Expert at www.tinies.com shares some top tips on how to teach your children good manners.

I was in the shopping centre the other day and was absolutely astounded by the vast difference between how children behaved. Child A was heading towards “Heelys” but, as she approached, she lost her line, and veered into me. My first instinct was to see if she was ok, my second to shake off what would become a bruise on my leg and the third was the realisations that she didn’t say sorry, and neither did the parent that ran after her. Later that day I was at the till and I dropped my wallet. Change scattered everywhere. Child B, who was standing behind me, went running to collect all of the pieces – with a smile on his face. The staggering difference in the way these two children behaved made me lament on today’s approach to manners.

As these children turn into teens and then adults, the lack of manners becomes terribly apparent

Everyone appreciates manners and, just as a child with bad manners leaves a lasting impression, so too does a child who is polite and helpful! In order to be a responsible and respectful human being, one needs to learn not to live in one’s own little bubble, think about how your actions will impact on other people and interact, even on the minutest of levels. A simple apology from Child A would have turned the entire situation around. It’s about not only looking out for yourself and, in many cases, putting someone else first.

In so many cases, manners fall by the wayside. We’re teaching our children so many things that something has to give, but as these children turn into teens and then adults, the lack of manners becomes terribly apparent.

It’s key to make sure the manners you deem important are instilled in your child from an early age

Growing up, we were expected to interact with adults and children alike. If we forgot our manners, we were reminded. As we grew up, we were given serious kudos when we visited someone else’s house. Not only did we say please and thank you, but we were helpful and we tried to include siblings in the games we played. Why? Because we’d been told it was polite!

With a multitude of individuals and situations influencing children, it’s even more key to make sure the manners you deem important are instilled in your child from an early age, whether it’s saying please and thank you or clearing their plates from the table; consistency, repetition, and role modelling are key.

Role models

If you give up your seat on the train or hold doors for others, your child will be more likely to see these actions as normal and mimic your behaviour. Anyone helping to raise your children needs to be on the same page. If grandma doesn’t expect a thank you and you do, this is confusing.

Children learn by example. If you or your partner leave the table without clearing your plate or don’t say thank you when someone does something nice, why should they? If they have friends who are a good example, compliment their behaviour in front of your children. Don’t make a huge fuss – but show them you appreciate it.

Expectations

We expect a lot less from our children these days than we have in the past and it’s time to change that. Children test boundaries and are always learning so you can’t expect them to just know what you expect. You need to set expectations before an event or situation. For example, if your child is going to someone else’s house for dinner, what do you expect of them? What do you consider polite? When they come home, ask how things went, and if they don’t mention clearing the table, probe further. Even if they insist their friends don’t have to help, your expectations are more important.

Consistency and repetition

Your expectations need to be consistent if you want your children to learn good manners. If you expect pleases and thank yous, let them know what for, ie say hello when someone walks into a room, or thank you when they are given a gift. You need to make sure it happens every time – even if you have to ask them to do it. This can feel embarrassing, but it’s important. And, other parents will understand – most of them will be having the same conversations with their children. Eventually it will become second nature.

If you’re in a public place and your child is not demonstrating good manners, don’t be afraid to call them up on it, as I mentioned, if Child A had simply apologised or even been asked to apologise my take on their manners would have been completely different.

Manners are everything, important tips and advice for every parent however old their children, and top tips for well-mannered children by Kristen Harding, Childcare Expert at www.tinies.com

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