Helping a child develop good manners takes time, patience and consistency - three things busy parents have little of.
According to a 2002 survey by Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization that focuses on societal issues, 79 percent of American adults feel that a lack of courtesy and respect should be regarded as a serious national problem.
And that study came out before the smartphone (as we know it today) did.
We all know as parents that it’s our job to help our child understand the difference between right and wrong and make positive choices as often as possible. But sometimes that seems impossible, especially because we’re not always with them. Indeed, the really difficult part is hoping your child will act in a socially acceptable way when you’re not around to remind him or her.
Developing and demonstrating good manners is a lifelong lesson. Be patient with your child, and remember that the refinement of social skills takes years to master. Teach politeness and consideration in small doses all year long, and not just in anticipation of family visits or holidays, both of which can naturally cause some stress in parents and throw a child out of their normal routine.
Here are some tips to help teach your children good manners:
Live “The Golden Rule,” and stress the importance of treating others in the same way you would like to be treated. Make it a family rule.
Let them know that the magic words go a long way. “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me” really are magical words. Let your child know that requests, for example, won’t be considered without a “please.” With a little consistency, your child will soon be correcting you!
And did we mention “Thank you?” Teach your child the importance of thanking people for gifts and other kindnesses. Encourage him to express his appreciation by saying “Thank you for the birthday gift” or by writing a personal and prompt note on special stationery or note cards. A preschooler can dictate his words to you and draw a picture or sign his name. School-age kids can even send an email.
You can’t go wrong with teaching - and showing - empathy. Help your child understand that teasing a friend or saying unkind things will make others feel bad. Ask questions like, "How would you feel if someone pointed at you and started to laugh?"
Don’t forget to sing their praises. You caught your kid being polite? Speak up! Let them know how proud you are. Before long, good manners will be second nature to him.
And always remember - you’re the role model! We all know "Do as I say, but not as I do" doesn’t work that well. If we want our children to have good manners, we will have to do the same. Just remind yourself to say "please" and "thank you," admit your mistakes, apologize, and treat friends and strangers and co-workers with kindness and respect.
There are many resources available to parents who want to instill good manners in their children. For more information, check out the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Education World, and Girl Scout Leader Magazine.
Gigi Schweikert is the president and COO of Lightbridge Academy and an expert in the field of early childhood education and balancing work/life. She has managed corporate childcare centers and their educational programs for more than 30 years. Schweikert is a bestselling author of over twenty books focused on how to create excellence in early childhood education. Follow 1851 Franchise as she shares her tips on parenting and childcare.