Are You Modeling Good Manners?

Everyone knows that children are sponges. What they see you doing – they’re going to want to do. This starts when they’re extremely small, before they can even walk and talk, and persists for most if not all of their lives (I know I still hope I emulate some of my parents’ qualities). So how do we model for them the behaviors we want them to pick up?

Let them always see you doing the polite thing. This means even when it wasn’t reciprocated, or also if someone has been rude to you. Let them watch as you take the high road and show them that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. It always pays to be kind, and mistreating people is not the way to get ahead in life.

Use polite words from an early age, but you don’t have to make them use them as these aren’t operative words. It’s essential that they hear you doing it consistently, so they want to do it, too. If parents and caregivers use this language enough, children are bound to pick up on them.

Always give them gentle reminders when they’ve forgotten to use their manners – because that’s almost always what’s happened. They haven’t left out ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ intentionally, they simply forgot. There’s no use in being harsh or punishing them for this. A few gentle reminders are all it should take for them to start remembering (because even gentle reminders annoy them, and they won’t want to hear it anymore).

As kids get older, you can prepare them for what it will look like to have good manners in a particular situation, and I always use talking time in the car on the way somewhere for this so that the reminders are fresh on my little’s one mind.

Here are some behaviors to stress with your kids:

Conversational Manners

  • Making and maintaining eye contact
  • Listening and showing non-verbal listening behaviors
  • Not interrupting
  • Politely asking someone to repeat or for clarification
  • Speaking clearly

Table Manners

  • Chew with your mouth closed
  • Don’t talk while eating
  • Don’t reach over someone’s plate
  • Ask to be excused
  • Don’t start eating until everyone has been served
  • Don’t make rude comments about the food being served

Whatever you do, remember that these little sponges are watching and absorbing it all!