Teaching kids manners is a difficult thing to do these days. Society has changed a lot and there is no longer an emphasis on teaching children manners.
Our society largely teaches people to have poor manners. We see this all around us. I see it when I watch people drive, see how people interact with each other, and watch them use technology instead of manners. Very few people display any kind of manners while driving...road rage seems to be the "norm."
Watching people communicate with each other, I see very few people demonstrate manners. I see a trend where people, in an effort to build themselves up, spend the entire time demeaning someone else. It is as if the only way for the person to feel good about themselves is by making someone else feel bad.
With much of communication moving towards technology (Internet, email, texting, social networking, etc.) there is less and less manners. I rarely receive an email that says "Thank you" or "Please."
So, with this being the environment that our children are living in, how do we approaching teaching kids manners? These tips should make the process easier for you.
1. They must have an example - Human behavior teaches us that children usually are a product of their own environment. That means, if you want to have your children learn to use proper manners, you need to demonstrate the same thing. The easiest way for them to learn is to learn by watching someone else do it. Family manners will build a strong foundation for them to learn from.
When you use proper manners and make it the way you live your life, that will make an imprint on your children. You simply cannot expect them to have good manners when you demonstrate poor etiquette. Live it and it will rub off off on them.
2. You must be consistent - Teaching children manners must be a way of life. If it is not done with any kind of consistency, they will not learn to use the principles in their everyday life.
Manners must be taught all the time or your children will not learn the principles.
If you plan on teaching them every now and then, the new behaviors of manners will not happen. If you want them to use please and thank you, you have to give them opportunities to use it.
My children know that if they want something, they must ask please. They know that I am not going to do anything for them until they say please. And they know that I won't give something to them until they say thank you. I had to be consistent in doing that or they would not change their behavior. This helps in teaching kids manners.
3. Encourage good manners - Nothing will help with teaching kids manners more than praising them when they get it right.
I like to make a big deal out of it when they show proper manners without me having to ask them to do so. People have a natural desire to please people that are important to them. As a result, children have a natural desire to make their parents proud of them. You can use this to your advantage in teaching them.
I like to tell them how happy it makes me when they talk politely, or open a door for someone. They see how it makes me feel when they do it and then they begin looking for opportunities to do it again.
4. Selfless attitude is the key - This is the hardest principle to teach, but when you get it right, it makes all the difference in the world. Here's why...
If you think about it, a lack of etiquette really just means that someone is exuding selfish tendencies. If someone was not selfish, they would think of the needs of others and how to make them happy.
As we went about teaching our children, we implemented what we called Service Stars. The idea was that every time we caught them doing something nice for someone, we would put a star on the wall. Each person (my wife and I included) had a different color star. That way, it was easy to see who had done the service.
Once they received a certain number of stars, they would get a milkshake or some other kind of reward. We would also ask the kids as we ate dinner together who they helped during the day. So, they knew that mom and dad were going to ask every day who they had helped.
The result was something magical. The kids started looking for opportunities to help others. They stopped thinking less about themselves. They started to pray for opportunities to help others. For an eight-year old and a four-year old, I think that is tremendous. The stars on the wall ended up being something they were proud of. When people would come over to the house, the kids would show them the stars on the wall and how they earned them.
It was a really neat way for us to facilitate teaching kids manners. The whole point is to find what works for you and your needs. Manners do not come without focus and attention. If it is not important in your life to have good manners, it will not be important to your children.
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