Good manners offer a lifetime of benefits. The rewards are too numerous to articulate and the cost is negligible. Not many investments boast such a considerable return. Parents are responsible for their children’s behavior. Fortunately, there is much that parents can do help their children avoid the consequences of inconsiderate actions and harvest the considerable rewards for polite behavior.
This world would be a much more pleasant place if courtesy was prevalent. When delivered with kindness and consideration, our words and actions are better received. When we treat others well, we feel better about ourselves, our lives, and those around us. Most importantly, we contribute to the happiness of those around us rather than offending them or hurting them. Polite behavior allows us to make and keep friends more easily. In fact, good manners make all relationships better including those with family members, teachers, bosses and colleagues.
On the flip side, poor manners may be the genesis of many childhood offenses like bullying and vandalism, and also much of the poor behavior we see from adults like road rage, foul language and crime. Habitual good manners could determine the difference in life between success and failure. The benefits are not limited to any particular age group, however, as with many valuable habits, the path is much less arduous if you learn as a child. Sadly, learning polite behavior to the point it becomes habitual is not in the mainstream of most childhood development programs. Parents have to reinforce the desired behavior each time their children are exposed to new sets of outside influences. The goal is to have polite behavior become the norm for your child. They should learn to expect polite behavior from others.
How can children be taught good manners? The most important aspect of educating children is being a good role model. Young children, especially, learn much from observation and mimicking. Exhibiting good manners simply means caring for other people’s feelings. In formal terms, there are monarchial rules governing “proper” behavior, but basic courtesy is a fine goal for most. If your manners are a little slight, you might consider picking up a book at the library or reading some online articles to brush up on tips for more polite behavior. Keep in mind that building new habits as adults is more difficult than as children. You must truly commit to a raised awareness level of other people’s feelings.
Children don’t want to be told, “don’t do this or that.” They want to observe and learn and figure things out on their own. When you must intervene, redirect their actions by pointing out polite behavior. “We share our toys.” “We treat friends nicely.” Start planting the seeds as young as possible. The younger the child, the more ingrained a good manner methodology will become in them. Discuss good behavior and poor behavior examples in them and others when you have quiet talk time at dinner or before bed. Learning manners is like learning a new language or a musical instrument. At first, it sounds inconsistent and rough, but over time with practice, a smooth melody brings pride and happiness. Once you’ve gained new knowledge and enthusiasm for this important area of your child’s education, perhaps you can volunteer at your child’s school to talk about manners or read a book and lead a manners discussion. Teachers, more than most, appreciate efforts to better educate children on good manners.
What are good manners anyway? Most people would be able to recite the standard “please” and “thank you,” but fall short after that. What more is there to know? Here is a short list of manners you can review with your child (excerpts from the book, “Abbey & Friends™ M is for Manners”):
ü Be nice to people.
ü Say “Please” when you ask for something.
ü Say “Thank You” when you are given something.
ü Say “You’re Welcome” when someone thanks you.
ü Greet people when you see them.
ü Look people in the eyes when you talk to them.
ü Talk politely during meals (even in the school cafeteria).
ü Don’t interrupt when other people are talking.
ü Share with others.
ü Help people.
ü Let guests go first.
ü Be on time, especially if you are meeting someone.
The gift of kindness and consideration is one that cannot be measured easily. I know of no parent that does not notice polite behavior in other people’s children and want that for their own children. Put time and effort into making courteous behavior a habit of everyone in your household. It is part of the foundation upon which happy families are built.