|Image: Quinn Norton|
Written by Crystal Schwalger
Looking for a way to help your child be more confident and stand out from the crowd in a good way? One way you can do this is by teaching them to have good manners. Today more than ever, it seems that many find good manners and proper etiquette to be not only old fashioned but also something no longer necessary. With the hustle and bustle of life today, and the oneness that technology brings, good manners have all but gone extinct.
Regrettably, politeness and using the “Golden Rule” have pretty much gone by the wayside. “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” and other such words of politeness are becoming just that: words. Fortunately there is a way that we can change that. As a parent, I feel that it is as imperative to teach children good manners as it is to teach them right from wrong, if for no other reason but to realize that other people matter too. It should come as no surprise that if we fail to teach our values and standards of manners, social media and other types of media will teach their version instead.
So how do we teach our children to be polite and kind consistently?
First of all, we need to realize that we need to be the example. Children watch and copy everything we do and say. They listen to how we talk to others and how a Father and Mother talk and treat each other. It does no good to be so-called “polite” in public and then to talk badly to one another at home.
The second step is that we need to realize that children are not born knowing what manners are. They take time, practice and maturity to finally become a habit. Toddlers can learn to say “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” but are probably not mature enough to ask to be excused from the dinner table or to understand why it’s impolite to interrupt when someone’s talking. Older children though, can learn to open doors or say “excuse me” when they walk in front of another person. The best way to learn is by doing. When you are out in public, we can teach our boys to open doors for their mother, their sisters and others. We can teach our girls to say “thank you” to those who open doors for them and not just take it for granted. We can also teach them how to sit like a lady or gentleman and why it’s not polite to pick your nose in public, eat with your mouth open, or crawl over the seat to gawk at someone sitting behind them.
Teaching manners, of course, starts at home. If you let a child demand attention or throw his food at home, don’t be surprised if they do it when out at a restaurant.
One of the best compliments I ever received was at a restaurant with my children. We were almost finished with our dinner when an elderly couple walked up and told us how well-behaved our children were and how nice it was to see children who were able to sit and eat without throwing food, yelling or whining. What a nice thing to hear. I hadn’t realized that anyone actually noticed when my children were good. This not only made me happy, but it also reinforced my belief of why good manners matter.
Another thing we can do to help our children learn, is to teach them to have respect for everyone. Encourage them to greet people with a firm handshake, smile, and to look people in the eye. This will help them not only now but also in the future when seeking employment.
We can teach them to be courageous and to apologize when they’ve hurt someone. Part of the problem in society today is that no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions. It’s all too easy to blame others. If we teach children to always take responsibility for their actions, more likely than not, that child will grow to be a leader, not a follower.
We can also teach our boys to honor their masculinity and girls their femininity. We can teach boys that strength and courage is to be used to protect the weak and that they are to never hit or hurt a girl but to always protect them from harm. We can teach our girls to demand the respect they deserve and to stand up for themselves and that they too can be courageous. We can teach them both to speak up for those being bullied and to have the courage to never give into pressure to do something that they know to be wrong.
Lastly, we as parents can be proactive when it comes to limiting the amount of media that our children are exposed to. Many shows, music, and sadly, even some cartoons, objectify women and encourage bad behavior. When children do watch, make sure you know what they are watching. We need to teach them to be critical of the shows they do watch and not to blindly accept the messages they hear on television, movies, and even music.
Good manners take time and practice, practice, practice. They force us to think of others and how we would like to be treated. Experts agree that “children who learn good manners when they are young are more likely to grow up more confident, be well adjusted and well-liked as adults.” They also say that “adults that are well-mannered in social situations are more likely to be successful in their careers and relationships.” Do manners matter? You bet they do!
For more information and a detailed list of 25 manners that every child should know by age nine, you can go to: http://www.parents.com/kids/development/social/25-manners-kids-should-know/#page=9
Crystal Schwalger has loved writing ever since she could remember. Her love of learning led her to Dixie State University where she graduated with a degree in English and communications. She is passionate about writing and believes that you should never give up on your dreams. She is happiest when she is at home enjoying her backyard green spaces with her family. She currently lives in Washington, Utah, with her husband, her children, and her dog Kali.