Good manners are important skills for all of us to acquire. Knowing how to
behave in a variety of social situations makes us feel more comfortable and that
comfort frees us to enjoy and learn from experiences.
Kids need good manners just like the rest of us. They encounter social
situations that are awkward for them, just like adults do. Kids get the same
kind of comfort that adults get from knowing what fork to use and how to excuse
themselves from a conversation. So, how do we help our children learn manners?
Perhaps the best way to teach children manners is to model good manners for
them. Starting with the very basics, teach children to say, “please” and
“thank you” and “you’re welcome”. Use these words when you talk to
your children. By doing so, you will not only be modeling good manners, but
respect as well. Manners are a way of communicating respect, so teaching
children to query and respond respectfully will increase their likelihood of
receiving a favorable and respectful response
Greeting elders and responding to elders with the terms “sir” and
“ma’am” seems to have fallen out of style. Yet, children who are taught to
do this never fail to get noticed. Using these terms when addressing elders
communicates respect for them. Children who are respectful will receive respect
Teach children to excuse themselves. The words “excuse me” have a number
of uses. “Pardon me” is also a useful phrase to teach children. These
phrases should be used when you must pass in front of someone, when you must
leave or interrupt a conversation, when you bump or nudge someone and when you
would like to get by someone and doing so requires them to move. There are a
number of other times that these phrases are appropriate, but getting kids
comfortable with the basic uses will be a good start
Beyond modeling these behaviors, you must teach them, require their use and
remind children of them. Eventually, they will become habit and need only
To teach children good manners at the table in a fun way, schedule a sit
down, “fancy” dinner as often as possible. Show children how to set the
table, many cookbooks include this information. Try to have a salad course and
main course. This gives you the opportunity to use more than one fork per place
setting. Teach them to use silverware from the outside of the setting and work
their way in for each course. Teach them how to ask for food to be passed to
them, to place their napkin in their lap and how to hold their utensils.
Remember that this is supposed to be fun and not a drill so keep the mood light.
As their skill progresses, have them plan the meal and serve it as well.
Perhaps one of the forgotten manners is the thank you note. Thank you notes let
the giver of a gift or the host or hostess of a party know that you appreciated
the energy and thoughtfulness that they extended to you. When a gift has been
sent to you from someone at a distance, a thank you note lets the giver know
that you received the gift. These kinds of thanks are a courtesy that should be
encouraged. Children learn gratitude when they are taught to send thank you
Knowing just the very basic manners will help children to communicate
respect, feel comfortable in new social settings and extricate themselves from
uncomfortable situations without offending anyone. In return, they will be shown
courtesy and respect. Isn’t this what treating others as you would like to be
treated is all about?
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