Learning our Manners

No one is born with good manners–we all need to learn them.

In the spirit of helping parents develop their children’s good manners, we offer a few thoughts, tips, and techniques. But before we do, we’d like to share what we believe are the basic principles of etiquette–the umbrella covering social graces, dining skills, and small talk.

Of course, it’s important for youngsters’ self-confidence and sense of control to understand how to conduct themselves properly in social situations–which glass to drink from, how to extend a firm handshake–everyday etiquette. The basis of good manners is treating others and oneself with respect, consideration, and kindness.

Three main principles guide us in teaching children good manners…

1. Kids learn best from their parents’ good example. (No surprise here.)

Children are always watching what their parents and other caregivers do and say. Teaching them about etiquette is not about impressing anyone. It’s about building their confidence, awareness, and consideration. Parents can demonstrate good manners all the time:

  • Greet people when they come to your home, and teach children to do the same.
  • Have kids help set the table at home, even on ordinary days, instead of standing by the dinner table while quickly grabbing something or eating on paper plates in front of the television.
  • Expect children to use magic words all the time. There are plenty of opportunities every day to say “please” and “thank you.
  • Maintain personal hygiene–yours and theirs.
  • Show how to give and accept apologies and compliments.
  • Respect youngsters by listening, without interruption, when they speak, even if you have heard it all before…another explanation for why we have two ears and one mouth.
  • Value differences.
  • Show consideration for children’s privacy and boundaries. Knock first.

2. Be consistent when promoting proper etiquette. (We know only too well that it’s sometimes easier to just let things slide. Instead, dig deep to find strength and steadiness. You’ll bear the fruits of your labor, we guarantee it.)

Bear in mind all children need frequent reminders, at home and when out in public. Reinforce acceptable behaviors, and gently remind kids when it’s obvious they’ve forgotten their manners.

3. Acknowledge positive behavior. (Find all sorts of reasons for them to be successful.)

  • Always praise children when they are using good manners.
  • Do not discipline children in front of others.
  • Be generous with compliments and stingy with criticism.

Now, we end on the same note as we started. No one is born with good manners. We all need to learn them. We encourage you to enroll children in etiquette training to complement your efforts and influence. You will come to value this decision more and more, because these classes will provide your youngsters with a solid foundation on which to build a lifetime of success.

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