Teaching Kids Manners Will Help Them Understand Gratitude & Respect
While I was running a couple of weeks ago, a two-year-old boy threw sand at me as his father stood by on his phone, completely ambivalent. “Hey, that’s not nice!” I said to both of them. Neither father nor son seemed to care.
Some days, it feels like manners have fallen by the wayside. But we won't be doing our children any favors if we allow that to happen.
Here are some ways to start teaching your little ones how to go off into the world as respectful and well-mannered people (you’ll be beaming with pride):
Walk the Walk
...And remember that there is no teaching with just preaching – we have to lead by example. Do we show our appreciation to others, shake hands, or smile? If we are rude to other people in front of our children, then chances are they will internalize that behavior and in turn, treat others with a lack of respect.
If we expect to raise little ladies and gentlemen, then we have to set a good example. When my little ones were young, I taught them to how to properly greet people and to extend their hand to shake. I am always so pleased when a stranger, parent, or a teacher comments on how polite and genuinely gracious my daughters are. Even more importantly, with good manners, your children gain respect and that feeds into their sense of self-worth.
Teach Them the Power of Gratitude
If we want our children to be grateful for the bounty in life, then we have to teach them very early on to say “Thank you.” Reminding children to say “please” and “thank you” is great in theory, but if we are not practicing those words ourselves with others, then they will not learn to be consistent in their own expression of gratitude to others. These little phrases remind children to be appreciative of the things and the people they have in their lives so that they're less likely to take anything for granted.
No means No
When our little ones focus their sights on something they want, they can definitely be stubborn. How many times have you said “no” to your toddler, only to finally give in after you become worn down by her relentless pleading that eventually turns into a temper tantrum?
I would love to say that it gets easier as they become older, but they only become craftier in their attempts to get their way—that’s why it’s important to teach them that “no” means just that, and no matter how hard it is, don’t cave in. We have to get down to their level, look them in the eyes, say, “No” with a logical explanation to follow and mean it.
Trust me – the time to set the boundaries is now, while the price tag is low— not once they reach adolescence, when you’ll have very little control over them.
Teach Them about Respect
We all come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. When we teach our children the wonder of diversity, we are teaching them to look for the similarities – not the difference – in others.
Peer pressure is a very powerful thing, especially if our children don’t have a strong moral compass set. Kids can be awful to one another, and we’re not always around to see what is coming out of our own offsprings’ mouths. All we can do is try our best to teach them that it’s never okay to put other people down (or to just stand by and allow others to), and instill a strong sense of right and wrong in them.
Compassion and kindness are character traits that we must begin nurturing and strengthening when our children are very young, so that they can learn to tolerate the differences in others, and not tolerate the prejudice and hatred in the world around them.
Teach Them How to Act in Public
Rule of thumb: if your little ones are not well-mannered at home, chances are they won’t be when you take them to a public place, so make it a priority to teach them some social graces. It's important that they understand that this is a world we share with others and we need to be mindful of ourselves and compassionate towards each other.
Our children live in a very busy world – and while playdates, soccer practices, school, and homework are all important components in their lives, we must never let these things come before such crucial life lessons, such as learning the importance of manners.
Do you place a priority on manners in your household?