One of THEE most important jobs we have as parents is to teach our kids manners. Pre-schoolers (those between the ages of 3 – 4) are at an age where they should be responding to some of the social graces that they have been taught and shown. I mean, you don’t want your kid to be the ‘rude kid’ right? Understandably, kids at this age are still quite self-centered. However, it is the right time for them to understand what constitutes good manners as this is part of how they learn that a world exists beyond their own needs.
My 3-year-old, is good at some manners and not so great at others. That is okay, she is little and we are working through it together. You can review this informative list on which manners kids should have by a certain age, however this post is focused on how to reinforce the establishment of these manners.
As with all things parenting, it starts with modelling
Modelling the right behaviours are key, as our kids look at what we do and emulate us. This at times is quite challenging for me as I am not perfect. I will be honest, I will lose my cool some times and shout an instruction instead of saying it politely. Or say a ‘bad’ word in front of the kids without realizing when my toe hits the leg of the couch (my toe is a magnet for any hard furniture). I think if we do the right thing at least 90% of the time, it will be okay. However, does not matter what we do, the best form of learning for kids is through observational learning from their parents.
Not forcing the issue in public
Our children are also human beings with feelings. If a transgression occurs, politely let her know on the spot what is the polite thing to do. This needs to be done very sensitively, as the intent is not to embarrass your child. A follow discussion in private with your child is helpful to explain further why a certain behaviour is not okay.
Playing games which teach good manners
A cool idea is to make practicing manners a game, as outlined in Games to teach kids good manners. At least half of the games listed can be done from age 3, and the rest from age 4 – 5. Role playing is one the games listed, that I think could work for at least a 3-year-old. The aim of the game is to teach and discuss a certain behaviour and then role play it together with your child. Your child can display the right behaviour as well as the impolite behaviour and they can learn in this way. Learning through play is always fun for young kids.
Continuously restating good manners
When your child is not displaying good manners, it is good to restate what you want them say. Example, politely correct, and state what the correct term is. Example, if they forget to say “please” and “thank you” you need to restate how they should have said it.
Use positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a powerful way to effect a change in behaviour. This is because kids at this stage, do want their parents’ positive attentions. Recognise and make a big deal about it when they display good manners.
In closing, it is important to be conscious of good and bad manners that your child may display. More importantly, take an action to correct impolite behaviour however painful at that moment. In a similar vein, positively reinforce and reward good behaviours. And of course, be a good role model as best you can…most of the time.
What do you think about these or other approaches to teaching your kids good manners ?