How can you start teaching your child manners?

Susanne Ayers Denhamdevelopmental psychologist

Starting small can yield big results later on. Follow the steps below and eventually your child is likely to use good manners consistently.

First, stick with the basics. It takes time for children to learn to say “please” and “thank you”. Encourage your child to say these words as a first step toward politeness and move on from there.

Second, practice what you preach. As you probably know by now, kids are always watching, listening, and learning from us – especially when we least expect it. The best way to encourage your child to behave nicely is to model good manners yourself. Say “please” and “thank you,” hold doors for others, refrain from interrupting, and exhibit whatever other behaviors you’d like your child to emulate.
Third, accentuate the positive. Rather than scolding  when your child forgets her manners, pour on the praise when she’s behaving appropriately. Tell her that she seems so grown up when she says “please” and “thank you,” and that people appreciate it. While it’s disappointing when our kids are rude to others, blowing up about it could cause your child to resist your efforts to teach considerate behavior. You want your children to exert their independence and “grown-up-ness” by showing off good manners – not by refusing to use them.

Finally, be consistent. As soon as your child is usually saying “please” and “thank you” at home, make that your expectation in public, too. Kids like consistency, and a rule that applies only to certain situations will be confusing and become difficult to enforce.


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