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Modeling Good Manners

November 2015

In the midst of our fast-paced lives, it might seem that good manners are a thing of the past, something we don’t really have time for or don’t even consider necessary.  Even if we are polite ourselves, we may not take the time to teach our children good manners.  We unconsciously hold the idea that teaching children good manners is old fashioned.

Let’s take a moment to review why good manners are important, both for our children and for every one of us.  The importance of good manners, simply put, is that they make everyone feel more comfortable.  For example, when we walk into a room and give a friendly “hello,” we put others at ease and enable them to feel more relaxed in our presence.  This puts us more at ease, as well.  Indeed, well-mannered situations lend themselves to everyone feeling more confident and, in the end, more successful.  All other things being equal, more confidence and success makes the world a better place. 

What are some ways you can teach good manners to your child?  First of all, there is no better way to teach good manners than to demonstrate them yourself day in and day out, every chance you get.  Show your child how an enthusiastic “please” and a warm “thank-you” establish positive relations with others, as well as enabling him to be successful in getting what he needs and wants.  Also, teach him simple things such as to wait to begin eating until everyone is seated and served.  Though this gesture may not seem important, through it he will learn patience and respect for others.

Because we are all egocentric, and children especially so, it is important that your child learn how to share and how to take turns.  When your child doesn’t want to wait for her turn, it doesn’t necessarily mean she is outright selfish.  Rather, she is probably just acting like a normal child.  Therefore, in all those cases where your child is angry because things can’t always be “Me first!” she will need your uncritical guidance and support while she learns the basics of showing concern for the wishes and needs of others. 

Another part of good manners is knowing how to introduce people.  You can teach this by making friendly introductions and greetings a regular part of the way you welcome guests into your home.  “Joey, I’d like you to meet our new neighbor, Mr. Garcia,” or “Grandma, this is my friend, Maria.”  At the same time, tell and show them how to make good eye contact and how to offer a warm handshake. 

We have all made mistakes, and we have all have had the experience of offending someone.  Help your child by showing them what it means to be accountable for themselves, good and bad.  Let your child hear you apologize, and teach him how to make a good apology without the defensive justification that often goes along with it.  And, be sure he knows how to reply to compliments with a simple “thank-you for saying so,” which is healthier than deflecting the positive comments that come one’s way.

When children grow up in the midst of caring and respectful behaviors, they will naturally become thoughtful and considerate as well.  Still, be sure to acknowledge your children’s good manners and gently correct them when they forget.  With your example, patience and loving guidance, your children will become the kind of people who make others feel comfortable.  As I said in the beginning, that’s what good manners are all about!
For more information on raising confident caring kids:  “Parenting with Presence,” by Susan Stiffelman, MFT.


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