Do you feel offended when people get in your personal space? Are you anxious in a new social situation? Do you feel ignored when someone is talking on their phone and not paying attention to your conversation? How do you think children feel in these situations? Children learn by observing the adults around them and we should be aware of what are we teaching our children about manners and etiquette with our daily actions.
Think about teaching a toddler to say please and thank you. They earn praise when they say the words and this positive reinforcement encourages them to repeat the behavior. It’s important to pay attention to our manners and etiquette so children learn the social rules that allow them to better function in society. Here are 6 manners that young children can learn:
1. Please. Younger children are known for grabbing items from your hands or taking things without asking. As they approach first grade, it’s an appropriate time to understand the need to slow down and ask instead of grabbing and taking. Make sure children ask, “May I please have the soccer ball”. This is also an appropriate time to add the word please when children order food at a restaurant or when socializing with neighbors. This helps them understand that please should be used with family and friends as well as those in our community.
2. Mr. and Ms. Our society today is more casual than in the past, but it is still important for children to know how to show respect when they meet someone new or are addressing adults, especially teachers. Introduce children using Mister, Miss, or Doctor. Let children know they should only call someone by their first name if they know them well or are given permission to do so. Also, let children practice introducing themselves to others, shaking hands, and sharing their name with “nice to meet you.” Repeating someone’s name is a wonderful way to help children remember the name and show they are paying attention.
3. Personal Space. Personal spaces seem to be getting smaller and smaller so be sure to respect the space of others. When you are sitting in a movie theater or on a plane, you should sit within the space allocated for a single person. Also, be sure to keep your personal belongings in the area around your seat rather than encroaching on another’s space. This teaches children to respect other people’s personal space.
4. Technology. As technology continues to change and improve, our society adjusts our expectations. It is not unusual to see someone walking on a sidewalk and apparently talking to themselves when they are in a conversation on their phone. Young children should learn that phones are not appropriate for use during meal times, play dates, and other times when social interactions should be the focus. Also, show young children that situational awareness is important by using headphones with caution when jogging, biking, or participating in other activities near motor vehicles. It’s important that we model the behavior we want our children to emulate so we need to remember there is a time and a place to use cell phones and other electronic devices.
5. Invitations. Young children need to learn they are not necessarily welcome everywhere. It may seem cute for a smaller child to invite themselves into a neighbor’s house but as they get older, children need to learn to ask. Children may invite the neighbors out to play or over to their house. Children also need to learn that not everyone may be invited to a party. When invited, it’s important to teach children to make a commitment to either attend or not attend and let the host know so the host can plan the party without wondering how many guests will attend. Also, if children see a party at the playground or community pool, they need to understand they were not invited and cannot ‘crash’ the party.
6. Thank You Notes. Letter writing can be a lost art, but when you receive a gift, it is appropriate to thank the person for the gift. When someone takes the time to think about you and give you a gift you should recognize their kindness. If a child learns to do this at an early age they will find it becomes second nature. Children should also learn that it is not appropriate to expect gifts or ask for them. With technology today, some find it acceptable to receive an email or text message as a thank you but remember how nice it is to receive a letter or card via snail mail and encourage young children to write thank-you notes when appropriate.
We love the genuine honesty and purity of young children and sometimes it is tough to see them grow up. As childcare providers and parents, we need to support age-appropriate societal growth of the children in our care. It may be hard to see that cute little baby as a little boy or girl but helping them grow into children, then young adults are important steps. Teaching manners will help children grow and engage with others, developing the necessary skills to help them be more successful in adulthood.
To learn more, a Manners and Etiquette course is available with enrollment in the Specialist Childcare program at AmsleeInstitute.com.
About the Author. Kathryn Gonsalves earned a Master of Art in Psychology from Humboldt State University and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Campbell University. Kathryn is a teacher in Virginia as well as an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies and Sitters.
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