Teaching manners to your child
instills lifelong respect and responsibility

Have you noticed that teaching manners seems to be falling by the wayside? Do kids today seem more rude and less respectful than they once were? Are polite children a thing of the past? You can teach your child manners that last a lifetime. You can get started at any age, and here are some guidelines:

1. Start teaching manners in the first year of life
Even toddlers can learn to express “please” and “thank you.” There is a huge range of normal rates of beginning speech, so we found success in using baby sign language. You can't force a toddler to talk before they're ready, but you can move a little one's hands to teach them a word. The words “please” and “thank you” are also easy to link to food at meal time so they see a direct cause and effect.

manners, friendship, siblings

2. Create expectation that siblings are kind to each other
As my second baby grew into a toddler, there were plenty of opportunities for sibling drama. Saying aloud to the baby (but really to the older), "we don't hit in our family," or "say 'thank you' to your brother" was a strong message for the older that this is how siblings behave.

3. Model speaking politely with your spouse
Children emulate what they see, for better or worse. If a child's parents speak to each other with respect, kindness and love, that's what they will presume is normal. I don't know if this is true in your family, but I sometimes have better manners when I speak to a total stranger than I do when I'm communicating with the person who loves me most. We've had good luck maintaining good communication and a healthy marriage by instituting a weekly in-house date night

4. Put the manners expectation on their reward chart
This is an easy way to have a daily reminder and to reward good manners frequently. If there is already a system in place for a child to earn a star or sticker on their behavior chart for just being polite, sometimes that's all the incentive they need.

5. Consider phrasing things positively when correcting a child
Any reprimand can be phrased in a positive way, and sometimes the message sinks in a little better. I have had better luck with “please remember your inside voice” as opposed to “stop yelling!” Young kids hear the words “don't” and “no” and “stop” in combination more than any other for their first several years of life. Kids pick up on negativity or positivity and I'm convinced that either one can influence their outlook and demeanor, including their propensity toward politeness.

6. Include “respect” in your famiy rules
When teaching manners to children, it helps if the expectation is infused in the entire family. Respect doesn't just mean that kids do what parents tell them to do. It can also refer to an attitude of politeness between all family members, siblings included! Having family rules that promote respectful interactions among all the members of the family is a great start to create this expectation.

7. Pull it all together with a family meeting
Among other things, a family meeting creates a platform for kids to talk to each other about sibling grievances. Doing this in an isolated format minimizes the escalating emotion that happens in the moment. This discussion reinforces the family value of mutual respect and politeness. When kids themselves feel respected and valued, they're more likely to be respectful.

8. Encourage gratitude and humility
Having regular opportunities to voice things that they're thankful for is another way to reinforce your efforts of teaching manners to kids. An easy time to do this is during dinner by saying grace or just going around and reflecting on what you're thankful for. If you have any private time with your child, like before bed, you can ask thoughtful questions that encourage gratitude and humility or at the very least self reflection.

Teaching manners to children isn't easy, and it takes time. Try these eight strategies to teach your child manners and don't be surprised when other adults notice your polite children!

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