Any parent knows that children have personalities and minds of their very own. Parents also know that children generally choose the worst possible times to be behave inappropriately. While you can certainly not have complete control over your child’s behavior, you can make sure that they are taught good manners and know how to behave in certain settings. Proper manners are something that your children will need throughout the course of their lives; the more you teach them now, the better off they will be as adults.
Lead by Example
It is never too early for your child to start learning good manners. Children pick up on things that you may not even notice, and when they hear or see certain things from you, they often start to mimic the behavior. When your child hears you use please and thank you, sees you excuse yourself, or apologize, they will follow suit. Set the example for how to behave at the table as well, or holding a door for someone, or offering to help an elderly or disabled person. Manners and compassion go hand in hand, and teaching your child manners will also teach him to care about others.
Redirect and Rephrase
Don’t assume that your child is being impolite or inappropriate on purpose; remember that they are not born with manners and have to be taught just like with everything else. Teach with patience and understanding instead of reprimanding. For example, if your child burps at the table, tell them that it is inappropriate behavior but that when they do, it’s proper to say, “Excuse me.” The more specific you are the better; telling them to stop being rude will accomplish little since they don’t know that they are being rude.
The same rule applies when your child says something inappropriate. Instead of reprimanding them for saying, “This stuff is yucky!” Tell them that what you would like to hear is that they do not care for broccoli. Basically, rather than telling them what not to say, you are telling them what to say, which is much more effective in the long run.
Privacy and Preparation
You have to accept the fact that your child will, undoubtedly do something completely inappropriate in a social situation, so you may as well be prepared for it. All you can do is make sure that your child has a clear as possible idea of what you expect, and that you review the “rules” before you go out. Make sure to comment on your child’s good manners throughout the evening. Not only will it keep her wanting to please you, but will serve as gentle reminders to keep minding her manners.
If and when your child does misbehave in public, you owe it to her and yourself to correct her behavior in private. Do not embarrass her by yelling at her in front of everyone or drawing attention to what she is doing wrong. Not only does this show your own lack of proper manners, but things like that can emotionally damage a child. Instead ask to be excused and take your child somewhere private to discuss why their behavior was inappropriate and what you expect to see for the rest of the evening. Children may be tiny people with very little understanding, but they still have feelings and deserve that small degree of respect.
You can buy every book, DVD, or game there is on good manners, but your child will still not have perfect manners all of the time. It may take some time for him to catch on, but just be patient and keep guiding and correcting. Understand that when your child forgets his manners, it’s not because he’s trying to make you mad; he’s just still learning and needs to be reminded. If you are constantly yelling about manners, they soon become something your child dreads and you will never get the behaviors that you want.
Make it Fun!
Just like almost anything else, children learn best when they are having fun. Yelling at your child about manners will not have nearly as much of an effect as you acting out bad manners and asking them to correct you. While bribery is never recommended, you can reward your children for mastering new manners. Also be sure to keep praising your child for remembering their manners. Children thrive on attention; if you do not notice when they do something good, they will do something bad just because they know they will get your attention.
Create manners games to play, or even assign your children to take turns being the “Polite Police.” For the day, it is their job to make sure that everyone is being polite and point out when someone is forgetting their manners. This gives them the opportunity to really observe and understand manners, as well as remember their own manners.
Make manners memorable, and they will never be forgotten. Your children may not know how important they are right now, but in the future they will surely thank you.