Each family is unique. Different sets of values, morals, traditions and routines are what make us all special. But when we bring our children together, the one behavior they should all have in common is good manners. And with the holiday season quickly approaching, there is no better time to discuss how we instill gratitude—and polite manners—into our children's everyday lives.
Please and thank you are the simplest of social graces that children will carry with them throughout their lives. They learn quickly that the use of these words is likely to result in achieving a desirable outcome, rather than by demanding it. But like anything else, these words must be taught at a young age.
Children learn most by repeating behaviors they observe. So as parents, always remember to say "please" and "thank you" in your everyday lives. Also, actually teaching your child when and what to say is effective. In other words, when you child says, "I want cake," remind him that the proper way of asking is to say "I want cake please" (or whatever variation you choose). Demanding that your child say please is less effective than showing him how to properly use the word. Once he has a better understanding, asking him for the "magic word" is another gentle way of reminding the child to say please.
Thank you is another word to instill early on; it is a courtesy that parents often forget they even deserve from their children! Again, reminders: asking "What do you say?" after something has been given is a good way to encourage kids to remember to say "thank you."
We have a favorite book in our house which has helped us learn our manners. Please Is a Good Word to Say by Barbara Joosee is a fun and well-written story about a young girl who talks about her favorite words. She focuses on "thank you" and "please" and other polite phrases like "I'm sorry" and "May I help you?" in a very endearing way. Another really adorable book about the use of the "magic words" is Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners by Laurie Keller. Using animals, the author shows kids that using polite manners is an easy way to make friends. And if your child is anything like mine, making friends in the schoolyard or playground is a top priority!
Teaching your children manners is a small job that has big rewards—and the holidays are a wonderful time to begin!
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