Small Talk#18: 6 Easy Tips towards Good Manners

Manners in the present day?

do manners make the man?

what are manners?                                     Image by commons

In this day and age, more and more children are becoming the tyrants of their households. Just to keep the peace, it seems as if hardworking moms and dads are letting their kids rule at home. In South Africa, Afrikaans speaking grandmas are complaining that their grandkids address them with the familiar form of “jy” instead of “ouma”! There are complaints from pre-school teachers that 3 year olds no longer comply with orders but “do their own thing”. The rules of behavior may be changing and yet people, whatever their race or age, will always like to be treated respectfully and courteously. If we are judging our children on what was “polite” behavior a century ago, we need to look at how much our rules and expectations of “good” behavior have changed in the intervening 100 years and then teach them the appropriate “good manners” for this present day and age.

My parents belonged to the generation of “children should be seen and not heard” and, as a child, I remember feeling really frustrated at not to be able to express my feelings! The pendulum has swung far since then. Today’s parents (YOU!) are allowing their children to express their feelings – I think this is great, provided that they are taught to express themselves politely and respectfully to both adults and other children. They need to be taught that throwing a temper tantrum to get your attention is not good manners and will, therefore, not work. If they ask for what they want, you will at least listen and probably will deliver! All of us want our kids to be the ones with impeccable manners. However, whilst some children take easily to “good manners”, others do struggle and extra patience is needed.

To help you on your way, here are 6 tips on how to teach your child good manners and acceptable behavior in today’s society without too much stress to yourself:

1: Teach by example!

having empathy

reluctant to share a toy                                       Image by Lydia of GoFoto Lifestyle Newborn Photography

One of the most valuable qualities you can impart to your child is sensitivity to other’s needs and feelings and this starts right from when your newborn comes home! When you pick up your newborn and cuddle him or feed him, you are responding to his needs and this teaches him that it is good when someone knows how you feel. If you bring up your little one to be sensitive to how others feel he will naturally become a well-mannered person. Recently it has become the “norm” to teach a child to be “assertive” as in today’s society it seems as if one cannot get anywhere unless one is strong enough to stand up for oneself! Being assertive is healthy, as long as it does not take the place of politeness. One can still assert one’s opinion without being rude. The take home message is that if you are sensitive to your child’s needs, he will learn sensitivity from you. Likewise, if you respect him as a person, he will respect you. If you are polite to others, he will also gravitate towards politeness.

2: Never too early to learn

Even though a toddler may not understand the social politeness of saying “please” and “thank you”, they can still learn that this is how an interaction begins and ends. When asking your toddler to hand something to you, preface your request with a “please” and end with a “thank you” once he gives it to you. When someone gives something to your tiny tot, you can tell him to say “thank you”, even if he isn’t yet speaking! At least you are planting the seeds of good manners by doing this! If mom and dad use these words a lot, even when interacting between themselves, just by observing his parents frequent use of “please” and “thank you” the little person learns that they are important words. Hopefully, they will parrot them, even if they don’t yet understand their meaning. It is also important to address your little one with the same politeness as you would do to an adult.

3: Acknowledge your child

I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that there is nothing more frustrating than being ignored! So imagine the frustration of a small child who is trying to get your attention and is being repeatedly ignored – no wonder he may throw a tantrum! Of course, you have to teach your child that he cannot interrupt a conversation just because he wants to demand attention. If you are talking to someone and he tries to interrupt, don’t just ignore him. Rather, gently remind him that it is rude to interrupt when mom (or dad!) is speaking. UNLESS of course, he needs to go potty or there is some other immediate danger! In other words, acknowledge that you know he wants something, but you will deal with it when you have finished talking. If you happen to be on the phone and your toddler is demanding your attention, just remind him that you are busy talking to someone but that as soon as you are off the phone you will attend to him. Children will always test boundaries – they will annoy the people at the table next to you at a restaurant or embarrass you in church, but they are still learning the rules and they need help to get to know them. Remove your child from pestering the people at the next table and explain to him why it is not good manners to disturb the others. Children need to know that they are important within the family, but that their parents are in charge –not them. Be firm, but be kind!

4: Correct politely

explain that hitting hurts

hitting a playmate                                             Image by commons

If you have to correct your child for whatever “bad” manner has reared its ugly head, do so politely and calmly. Make sure that your child understands what he has done wrong and why it is wrong to behave like that, but do so politely! For instance if your toddler hits a playmate with his toy, you can explain (after separating the two!) that we don’t hit others because it hurts and you can ask him how he would feel if his playmate hit him.

5: Give praise

Whenever your little one behaves with what is considered “good manners”, praise him! Tell him how nice it was of him to give his toy to the other child to play with and how proud you are of him. If he says “thank you” to grandma when she gives him a biscuit, tell him how good that makes you feel, how proud you are of him! Make a big deal of it whenever he is behaving with good manners!

6: Follow up on consequences

If you threaten an action, follow through on it! If you are at a friend’s house for example, and your child is misbehaving in some way, don’t just say to him “if your bad behavior doesn’t stop right now, we will go home straight away” and not follow through. Be prepared to leave! Basically, you have to say what you mean and mean what you say!

I hope that these 6 tips help you to teach your children to respect others, to stand up for themselves politely whenever necessary, whilst at the same time having empathy towards other’s feelings and needs. Expect the best from your children and they will give you their best.

There is a saying that goes like this: if a child grows up in an environment that expects good manners, they will have good manners. And if we, the parents have good manners, our children will grow up knowing the correct way to behave, politely and respectfully out there in the big wide world.

Yours in newborn photography




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