Truthfully, would you rather hang out with a friend who is polite or rude? Manners are powerful, both good manners and poor manners. Society may focus on the crass and unruly, but respect and polite behavior will always be in style.
Teaching manners goes far beyond please and thank you. And it is not one of those lessons a parent can just check off the "To Do List" like shoe tying instructions. It might take a long time to master the skill but once the shoes can be tied, the kid is on his way. Manner lessons go on, and on. And sometimes on, and on, and…well you get my drift! Even with teenagers, it’s a continual time of coaching. When a lesson in manners is in order, here are a few tips.
- Give directions in the positive. For example, "Please take your elbows off the table"rather than "Don’t put your elbows on the table."
- Praise success. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way in strengthening a child’s desire to do well.
- Verbalize your expectations. "We are having dinner at Grandma’s house tonight. I expect you to sit and the table, eat with a fork, and use a quiet voice." Children generally desire to live up to Mom and Dad's expectations.
- With younger children, focus on one manner at a time. Concentrate on table manners then move to phone etiquette.
- Be tolerant of lapses but don’t overlook them. Use slip ups as teachable moments.
- Make it fun! When my boys were little, I would pretend to be the rude friend that came for lunch and broke every rule in the book; elbows on the table, speaking with my mouth full, napkin left on the table, reaching across others for food. The boys would laugh themselves silly. Then we'd talk about what a polite guest looks like as compared to the rude friend.
Make polite manners part of what your family does everyday. You’ll know the lessons are paying off when you hear from a friend, "Your child is so polite." Who knows, your child may be invited to dine at the White House one day.
By Becky Danielson, M.Ed. Becky Danielson, M.Ed., is wife and mom of two teenagers. She is a licensed Parent & Family Educator, co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting and the co-author of EMPOWERED PARENTS: Putting Faith First and Parenting Prose, a regular column in Marriage Magazine. Becky and her family live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. www.beckydanielson.com & www.1corinthians13parenting.com