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Developing Manners in Children

Developing Manners in Children

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Growing up in the South, I was taught, from a very early age, to respond to questions with, "Yes, ma'am," or "No, sir" and to say, "please," if you wanted to eat, and "thank you" if you ever wanted to eat again. Well, fast forward a couple decades, a few pounds, 3 states, and a baby later, and I have realized that manners mean a little bit more than keeping your elbows off the table, and using proper nouns to describe every person that you meet.

When you've got a toddler on your hands, you've probably noticed that the grunts and whines that mean they want something could probably be replaced with a few polite words. Something like, "PLEASE, child, I am begging you to stop screaming for the cell phone!" comes to mind. When you are desperately trying to teach your little one some manners, you may feel like you're possibly expecting them to do something they aren't able to understand yet. How and when will they comprehend which manners are most important, what is appropriate and when, and where we should have a little more flexibility? The truth is, every one of our kids is going to be a little bit different, but when it comes to basic manners, our kids are capable of understanding more than we think.

 

 

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What Can We Do to Teach Manners?

Best way to teach our kids is to be good examples for them! Our kids are master mimickers, and we need to make sure we're modeling those behaviors. We have to look for the teaching moments when it's "easy" to do it (aka not when you're at the park and your babe has just smacked another babe in the head and you're trying to prompt them to apologize). Some good times would be when you're at your own kitchen table, or while you're playing in their room. Prompting our kids to use the appropriate words in the right situations is half the battle. The same way they learn how to say, "bye bye" and wave is the same way they learn to say, "sorry" (probably without the r's because it's just way cuter that way) when he socks a kid at the park. You can also do your best to teach manners and act them out when you're playing. Role playing is super effective with our kids, so we can try to teach them how to react and behave in certain situations using their favorite stuffed animals or even reading them some books about emotions and behavior before bed!

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When Should We Start?

Most kids will start to lear things like sharing, please, and thank you between 18-months to 2-years-old. It will take them a little longer, around age 3, for things like apologies and table manners. Appropriate behavior during play time, how to react differently in different settings, and inappropriate bodily behaviors will vary, but our kids will start to get it within the same window of 2 to 3-years-old. Do your best not to expect too much from your little ones too quickly, but do make sure you take the time to teach and model the behaviors early on, so you're not stuck playing catch up trying to teach them everything at once.

When is it Too Late?

The great thing about kids is they are so flexible when we are consistent. Did that sound as weird as I think it did? Just follow me for a second. Our kids are able to change their schedules, their behaviors, and their habits when we are consistent and firm with our expectations and our new rules. If you feel like your sweetie isn't getting the "please and thank yous" down, make that your goal. If you're all having a hard time because little one isn't saying sorry, or even acknowledging that they're doing something inappropriate, you should work on that.

We've all got our own manners that matter for our kids and at what times. Do your best to use your best manners around your babes, take advantage of teaching moments when they come up, and keep their age in mind when we're trying to make sure they're being polite and sweet in the right situations.

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