Watch a group of children playing anywhere in the world and you can pick out the ones raised by polite parents. They say please when they ask to borrow a toy. They lend a hand when a friend falls over. They smile as they offer to share their crayons. They are, in fact, the angels of the playground. Now, can you imagine your child’s face on one of these earth-bound angels? If you can’t, you certainly will after you get through with these tips for raising courteous kids!
Start Early and Often
Many educators and child psychologists believe that children between the ages of two and five are in the optimal stage of development for learning manners. At this age children are willing to do almost anything their parent requests, and are able to mimic what they see. Teach your child basic manners when (s)he is young, and help him/her perform them often so that by school age being courteous seems only natural.
Share the Magic Words
Teaching your child to say “please” and “thank you” is one of the most fundamental building blocks of raising courteous kids. Throw in a few other magic words, like “God bless you!” when someone sneezes, “Good morning,” “Good afternoon” and “Good bye” and you will be well on your way to etiquette success.
As soon as your child shows an interest in a toy telephone, help him/her learn good manners by conducting creative calls. Show your child how to answer the telephone with a polite “Hello?” and then teach appropriate phrases like “Hold on one moment, please” and “May I take a message?”
Also use this time to lay down the house rules about using the telephone, such as how old a child must be before (s)he may answer the phone or make a call. Explain to your child why it is also important to never tell a caller if adults are not in the house.
Follow the Golden Rule
The Golden Rule may seem a little tarnished by modern society, but teach your child to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and you will be a proud parent. Model this rule every day by interacting politely, and patiently, with others. Teach your child to respect others, and treat them the way they themselves would like to be treated.
Try Out Table Manners
When your child is old enough to eat at the family table, welcome him/her in with a lesson on table manners. Advise your child that:
- Everyone eats with a fork unless they are told it is ok to eat with their fingers.
- Everyone chews with their mouth closed.
- No one talks with their mouth full.
- Everyone says thank you when they are served.
- Everyone says please when they need someone to pass something.
- No one begins eating until everyone has been served.
- Everyone puts their napkin in their lap at the start of the meal.
- Everyone tells the host how nice the food was (even if they have to lie!).
Provide Plenty of Practice
Just like learning the script of a play, learning our social scripts takes practice. Allow your child plenty of time to practice being courteous, and commend him/her when (s)he shows courtesy without being prompted. Reward your courteous kids when the time is right, such as with stickers and paper to write a nice thank you card, or with a fun lunch out for behaving nicely at a grown up dinner. Every day offers opportunities to be courteous – make sure you spot them all!