Today’s kids aren’t any different than the children you see holding doors for pregnant women as they struggle into the grocery store or giving up their seats to an elderly person on the bus on Leave it to Beaver reruns. Teaching a modern child about etiquette and manners is possible.
“As a parent, you wouldn’t think of sending your child off to play hockey without proper equipment and a pair of skates or to school without lunch money,” says Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert. “In the same way, you do your children a disservice if you send them into the world without proper social skills…Empathy, our ability to put ourselves in someone else’s place and imagine how our words and actions make them feel, is what manners are really all about. “
In order to get kids on track and acting mannerly, Fox says that parents begin on the right path “as soon as [children] are born. We care for them, feed them and cuddle them when they cry. By these actions, you are teaching your child empathy; showing your understanding of their needs and wants and meeting them. Your baby watches and responds to you and learns this valuable life lesson.”
So how can parents keep on a positive and continue nurturing their children’s empathetic behaviour to raise perfectly mannered kids? Fox recommends the following top tips for teaching kids manners:
- Model good behaviour at home: Children observe your behaviour and will follow what you do. It is important to treat others with respect and teach your children what this means. When you show respect, others tend to show you respect in return.
- Start from a positive position: Always use the magic words – please, thank you, you’re welcome, I’m sorry – in conversation. Children learn to talk by mimicking what they hear. If they always hear you say ‘please’ when you ask for something and ‘thank you’ when you receive something, it will be a normal response when they learn to talk.
- Make etiquette a part of your daily family life: Kids need to know that good manners are important all the time – not just when they go out or when they want something.
- Everything that can be learned needs to be taught: Rather than beginning to correct your child when you are out or in an unfamiliar place, prepare before hand by telling your child what they can expect to happen, what they need to do and how you expect them to act. When they know how to behave, they tend to behave.
- Remember that most etiquette rules are common sense: Explain to your child that not chewing with your mouth open is important because its shows respect for the other person who doesn’t want to see you eat like an animal. Practice polite greetings with family members and others saying “Good morning” or “Hello, how are you today?”
- Reward positive behaviour with praise.
By setting the stage for a life of using proper social etiquette, Fox says that a parent’s goal of ensuring good manners become a habit and not something you just bring out on special occasions can be realized, making it possible for your children to go through life knowing “how to behave in situations and deal with more important things.”
Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert. Louise is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies, Canada’s Experts in Children, Youth, Teens and Social Etiquette and the director of Louise Fox Protocol Solutions business etiquette. She has been trained and certified in Business
Etiquette and International Protocol at the prestigious Protocol School
of Washington and Children’s Etiquette at the International School of
Protocol In Baltimore.
Don’t forget to check out part 2 & 3 of our manners series below:
Part 2: Taking Kids Out! Restaurant Etiquette Tips
Part 3: Overcoming today’s etiquette obstacles