Good manners never go out of style.“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” Emily Post
In that statement, the essence of good manners is revealed. It’s more about attitude than etiquette. Courtesy, kindness and respect for others are more important than protocol and procedure. But here is the hard part – children are looking toward their parents and teachers to be shown how to behave.
When we teach our children good manners, we hand them a passport to future success. Good manners will open doors that the finest education, the biggest bank account and the most staggering beauty cannot unlock.
- Good manners lead naturally to good behaviour
- Manners encourage a sense of gratitude and courtesy
- Habitual good manners lead to the habitual good treatment of others
- Using their manners equips children to handle social situations with confidence
- Manners help them to make and refuse requests
- Manners help them get good careers and great relationships
- When they become a habit, manners constrain children from acting inconsiderately even when under pressure
- Raise children to use their manners and people want to have them back to their place again!
What does it feel like to be warmly greeted? To always have someone say goodnight to you? To be thanked for the meal you made or the car trip you took them on? To have someone say, “Excuse me,” when they walk in front of you?
That’s the theory – but how do you ingrain these manners?
First-up, the toughie – parental example
Conspicuous, almost exaggerated manners around greetings, requests and table behaviour not only sets a good model for the children to follow, but will genuinely make home life more pleasant. Of course, family life can be casual, but even when relaxing from your best behaviour after the grandparents have gone home, there should still be the bedrock of respect being shown through considerate, courteous manners.
Make it simple
Make a pact with yourself, “I will not give in to any request made to me in a rude or impolite manner.” Don’t fall into the stalemate position where the kids ask for something, and then you say, “Say please!” and they sarcastically mock you with, “Pleeeease”, turning ‘please’ into a meaningless password to get your compliance. Hold the line – get them to completely repeat the request. “Pop down to your bedroom, find your manners, put on your nice voice and come back and ask me again.”
Or, “This is the way I want you to ask me” and you give them the polite phrase you would like them to use. If they say the words but with a mocking tone, that discounts the meaning of the polite words, say, “Great. You’ve got words right. Now say it using your nice voice.”
Use good manners with them
Listen to yourself as you speak to them (“Bring it here!” “You’ll break that!” “Not in your good clothes!”) And ask yourself, “Would I speak to any other adult like that?”
- Don’t always play the reminder – “What do you say?” Children learn that you are the eternal prompt and get lazy. Hold the item they want and with a twinkle in your eye, keep hold of it! A please or thank you will come.
- If your child refuses to use their manners maybe out of stubbornness or shyness, you can have simple consequences that help shift the behaviour along.
- Role play with puppets and children’s toys. “Here’s one for you and one for Teddy.Wow, what lovely manners you have, Teddy.”
- Celebrate Master or Miss Manners of the week. Honour them by giving them the special Red Plate or putting a call through to grandma and telling her.
- Cue, prompt and reinforce – “What will you say when you see your teacher today? Are you ready with your friendly hello? Well done, James – you have got good manners developing!”
- It’s a process. Manners cover greetings, saying goodbye, thank you, using tissues, restaurant etiquette, receiving and giving gifts. Pick one at a time to work on.
- Children can be very honest. They say what they see. “Mummy that man is fat, isn’t he? Have a talk with them about how some things we say can hurt people’s feelings. Tact means we know it, but don’t say it or show it!
- Have selected times when you focus on manners. This can take the pressure off focusing on manners at the table every day of the week. ‘Monday Manners’ is the night that you check each other, have the manners rules up and have a competition over who has the best manners.