Most of us were taught to say “please” and “thank you” at a young age. We were also taught to chew with our mouth closed and excuse ourselves from the dinner table. As children, we may have had fewer distractions in our lives that allowed us to focus on good manners and be more aware of our surroundings.
However, for today’s young person, it may be more challenging to sit still and pay attention because of the excessive information being thrown at them day after day. Whether it’s incessant social noise or overuse of technology, it’s more important than ever to start teaching our children basic manners, and even more crucial to take it one step further and teach them some uncommon - but just as important - manners.
Here are five manners that you may want to consider incorporating into your child’s development:
- Give others space in public. Kids love to run and play so much that sometimes they forget others are around them. In public, jumping and running impose on others’ personal space, and teaching your kids to be aware of that is important. When walking in public, encourage your children to look both ways before crossing a path to avoid accidents with other people. You may also want to teach them to step off the sidewalk into the grass if another person is approaching as a common courtesy.
- Write thank-you notes. As uncommon for adults these days as much as children, the practice of writing thank-you notes teaches your child to be grateful and goes above and beyond the audible standard. There are creative and fun ways of doing this, but the easiest way is to write a handwritten note that includes a greeting, one aspect of the gift that they liked and their signature.
- Change subjects the right way. When adults speak, kids can get bored easily. Instead of interjecting and tugging on your arm, encourage them to wait for a lull in the conversation before they ask a question. To take it a step further, if your children aren’t interested in what you have to say, teach them to identify a topic in your conversation and use it to lead into something that interests them.
- Share the spotlight. Kids are used to being the center of attention, but when others are around, constantly talking about themselves can be impolite. Teaching them to focus the conversation on others not only shows good manners, but it sets them up for a future where they include and acknowledge others—a behavior that extends beyond social gatherings and into the workplace.
- Offer to help. Children should respect elders when asked to do something such as put dishes away or carry groceries into the house. However, it’s much more meaningful if they take a more proactive approach. A great all-around skill, offering to help others before they ask, is crucial to developing a child’s manners. To teach your child this skill, set up a role-playing scenario where he or she can learn to identify these situations.
Take a minute to observe your child in different situations such as in public, at dinner and with friends. Does your child exhibit any of these manners? If not, it’s worth practicing. Pick one of these manners and continue to rehearse until it becomes a habit.
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