Recently while grocery shopping, I overheard a grandmother comment, “Children should be seen and not heard.” She made the comment to her daughter I presume, about her own grandchildren who were not minding and acting out in the aisles.
The old adage is so outdated it sounds comical today, and I chuckled to myself when I heard the woman say it. However, I empathized with her. The kids were behaving rudely and not practicing good manners. “Can I have this? Can I have that? I want it! Get it for me!” The children’s rude behavior was not pleasant for any of us within the family’s vicinity. The grocery store is a public space, and all of us have an obligation to behave appropriately, even kids.
As the mother of little boys I am well aware that children can lose their marbles, however with early manners training children can be taught to curb their bad behavior and behave with good manners, even while mom picks out cantaloupe at the market.
If a poll was taken worldwide asking, “Have the rules of etiquette been allowed to relax?” people would overwhelmingly answer, “Yes!” If the next question on this poll asked, “Are you glad that etiquette rules have been allowed to relax?” the resounding answer would be, “No!” The vast majority of people respect good manners and want to live in a world where people are civil and polite. People want children to learn good manners and then practice those manners as adults. Good manners make us feel safe in a society where we are surrounded by strangers.
Stifling our kids, as suggested in the old adage, is not an option. So what is the secret to kids’ etiquette training?
5 Golden Rules for Well Mannered Children
1. Begin manners training early.
It is never too early to start instilling good manners in our kids. The tiniest of children can be taught to say please and thank you, wash their hands before eating, and not interrupt adults in conversation. Patience and continued reinforcement will, over time, teach kids that these rules are important and necessary. It is much easier to start manners training early than to wait until the child is a teenager and expect him to change bad manners patterns that have been developed over years. If a parent is unsure of the proper etiquette rules, hire a certified etiquette trainer to teach the basics.
2. Start with the basic building blocks.
Nobody expects young children to understand complex manners lessons. The etiquette trainer should start with basic concepts and as the child matures, build on these basic ideas. Simple concepts like proper utensil use, good hygiene, sharing, and gift giving and receiving are manners basics that offer a good stepping off point for more complex lessons later on. As the child masters the basics, more refined lessons can be introduced and practiced. Just as one wouldn’t expect a child to understand calculus before learning how to count, one can’t expect a child to be able to attend a formal dinner party without understanding how to hold a fork properly.
3. Use gentle reinforcement.
Using calm tones and kind words reinforce manners lessons daily. Manners need not be the focus of meals or other daily activities. Quite the contrary, ordinary conversation should be held throughout the day with quiet little reminders about manners peppered in. It is counter-productive to become angry with children because they are not following manners directions. It is only with gentle reinforcement and repetition that practicing proper etiquette will become effortless. It takes children eighteen years to mature, plenty of time to learn the rules of etiquette before leaving the nest.
4. Don’t bombard children with all of their mistakes.
Most people can only absorb three points of information at any one time. For example, phone numbers are broken into three parts to make for easier memorization. Keeping this in mind it is important not to overload children with many manners corrections. Choose no more than three rules to work on, say, during meal time, and gently reinforce until the child perfects. Once the child is comfortable holding a spoon correctly, chewing with a closed mouth, and sitting up in his chair, move on to three more manners rules. By focusing on just a few corrections at a time, the child won’t feel picked on or overwhelmed and will respond more positively to the etiquette lessons than if bombarded incessantly with all of his manners gaffs.
5. Model good manners.
Children are like super absorbent sponges and pick up on even the most subtle adult behaviors. It is imperative to model good manners in front of children. It is likely that a child with a rude parent will mimic that rude behavior. It is important to not only model good table manners, but to model integrity, respect for others, good hygiene and civility.
Following the 5 golden rules for raising well mannered children lays the foundation for a child’s successful future in so many ways…socially, civically, educationally and financially to name but a few. Investing the patience, time and thought into a child’s etiquette training gives kids an advantage that they deserve and contributes to society geometrically.
Elena Neitlich is owner of Etiquette Moms at http://www.etiquettemoms.com When you are ready to follow your passion to start a small business and teach kids great manners, visit her site and become a certified children’s etiquette trainer We give you the tools to contribute to the well being of children and to society, start your own small business and live the life you love!
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