Making Manners Matter: Social Skills for Kids
Have you ever been in a store and listened to a child talk back to her mother and act grabby and greedy about everything in sight? Manners are an age-old, tried-and-true skill and luckily they’re making a comeback.
Practicing good manners is a way of extending kindness to other people. They are a language, a way of communicating. Manners are also a way of finding common ground for a conversation, or making someone feel welcome in a new situation. And manners are what your kid needs!
Lay the Foundation
Want your kids to make a good impression? Then some manners are in order! Luckily, the people who’ve always been interested in teaching manners are still doing it. Emily Post’s extended family of children and grandchildren has written quite a few new books to help parents teach their kids good manners, including the classic Emily Post’s Table Manners for Kids.
Where to begin this daunting task? With yourself, of course. You are your little boys’ and girls’ first and most important teacher. The conversational habits you start in the early years will be applied when they hit the big world on their own. Start with the simplest idea: listen to what your child says, and ask the same for yourself.
Of course we want our children to grow up and be able to carry on a good conversation with adults. We’re used to helping toddlers learn how to speak, but maybe we are not used to helping kids age three and up to have conversational skills. Here are the simple guidelines:
- Talk with your child rather than at them
- Describe the colors, shapes, direction of things
- Use a variety of descriptive action words
- Use a variety of words to describe and express time
- Let them hear ways to express feelings and needs
Don’t rely on television to teach your kids good vocabulary and good conversational skills. They might end up knowing how to sell you something rather than talk with you! Good manners are all about interacting with people… And you just can’t get that from TV!
The adult world is all about relationships. Good manners make a lasting impression. Your child may be a genius with a great resume that will get her in the door, but it’s their ability to relate to people that will get them the job. And the time you’ve spent practicing good conversation with your little one on the way home from school might be the make-it-or-break-it skill that gets them the job of their dreams.
Baby’s Table Manners
You’re kidding, right? Yes, a little bit, but it’s important to realize that the “golden rule of parenting” starts with babies. The golden rule being “always behave the way you want your children to behave.” When you put baby’s bib on each time you feed them, you are communicating the idea that there are rituals at the table. The bib will become a napkin later on. The spoon waving in the air will slowly settle down into a full set of silverware that is used in certain ways, and so on.
Here’s what you can expect as your child gets close to school age, assuming you’ve been practicing the golden rule all along. Your four year old and older child should be able to:
- Sit at the table with the family
- Help set and clear the dishes
- Participate in conversation
- Use table utensils
- Pass dishes
- Chew with their mouth closed
- Ask to be excused when the meal is finished
They’re Watching You!
Of course, having meals together as a family is the only way manners can be taught. Your little one will watch your every move as you show how to put the napkin on your lap, take turns while talking, sit up straight, ask politely to have serving dishes passed to you, and wait until everyone is finished to leave the table. While you don’t need to ask to be excused, your child definitely should!
What are some of the most important manners in your household, and how do you enforce them?