As much as we want our children to enjoy just being children, there are few things worse than a badly behaved youngster. Similarly, we don’t want our children to turn into miniature perfect adults before their time! It is a happy medium that we need to achieve where our children understand the importance of good manners coupled with the freedom of childhood.
Children are not born with good manners, they learn them – primarily from us, their parents. The art of teaching our kids good manners can never start too early and it enables them to cope in social situations.
Start by teaching your toddler the importance of saying “please” and “thank you” even though at this age he probably won’t understand what it means. Eventually though, he will understand the meaning of the words and this, in turn, will become a normal behaviour pattern for him.
The second step, which can pretty much be taught at the same time, is teaching junior to say “hello” and “goodbye”. You can expand on this later by teaching him to use the person’s name in his greeting.
Severe anger (not temper tantrums) is not acceptable and should be carefully monitored, remembering that anger is not an emotion but more a reaction to hurt or fear, so deal with that first and the anger will undoubtedly fall away.
As adults, we all pick up bad habits but when we have children we have to take a good, hard look at ourselves and our own manners. A little brushing up may be in order because children will learn from our examples. We cannot teach them one thing while we do another! As adults, we have to be on our toes constantly because even our unconscious bad actions can be picked up, so keep in mind that watching what we do has a huge impact on our toddlers’ development.
Checking in to the dinner table
Table manners are a priority for little ones to learn, so keep your own in check and make sure they follow suit. Here are some guidelines to start with:
- Teach your toddler never to chew with his mouth open
- Talking with a mouthful of food is a no-no
- Fighting with a sibling at the dinner table is not acceptable
- Hands should always be washed and junior should learn to sit up straight – and keep elbows off the table
- No matter how badly your child wants to finish his food quickly in order to watch a favourite television programme or finish a game, gobbling down his food is definitely off the menu
- Teach what a napkin is for and how to use one
- Trying to pick food from teeth at the table is also a no-no
- Cutlery is for eating with, not for waving around the air in an attempt to express conversation. When the meal is finished, their knife and fork (or spoon) should be placed back on his plate
- Food needs to stay on the plate before being eaten, not knocked off onto the table.
Teaching your child good manners may seem like a lot of effort, but once the ground work is done you’ll be proud and he would have learnt essential social skills.