We all know those children.
The ones who say please and thank you. Who share without whining. Who ask to be excused before they leave the table.
Sometimes they’re our very own children, behaving in a way that reminds us we’re doing something right. But other times, those same kids are melting down at Chili’s or using their fingers as tools for nasal exploration.
Children might do what their parents say, but they’re more likely to do what their parents do, experts say. So good manners start at home.
“Rather than thinking we need to be on our best behavior in public, think about being your very best at home,”. “That means treating your family like you would treat company.”
It also means starting early.
“Bibs are our first napkins,” .When you’re feeding your baby, turn off the TV, turn down your ringer, and make that mealtime a social interaction. Take 10 or 15 minutes to focus on the child, to make eye contact and talk.”
By age 3, kids should smile or react positively to someone entering a room. By 5, children should be greeting visitors. And 6 isn’t too soon to expect a child to shake someone’s hand and look them in the eye.
“Looking in someone’s eyes can be scary,” . “So you can tell a child to look at the person’s nose, which is less threatening. Or set up a game at home that you try to remember the color of someone’s eyes when you first meet them. That way, the child is looking into someone’s eyes for a different reason.”
A new survey found that moms want to give their kids a “stronger moral compass” in an increasingly “freewheeling” world. A full 81 percent of moms said that teaching their children good manners is part of helping kids be successful, but many found that it is difficult to walk the line between being a firm parent and a loving one.
Children like structure at home and that good manners come as a result of kids being comfortable with what is expected of them socially.
“Kids don’t want to be clueless,” . “If you invite friends into your home and treat them graciously, offer them a drink, your children will be more confident at their friends’ homes. That confidence allows them to forget about themselves and be able to focus on other people. And good manners are not about being showy.”
Teaching at the table
One of the best places to learn manners is around the table.
“Even if it’s only once or twice a week, make an effort to sit down together as a family,” . “The table is where children pick up family values and habits of respect. They learn how to hold a conversation, how to ask and answer questions. Parents can’t model good behavior if everyone is on a separate schedule.”
‘Prompt and praise’
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trying to teach manners in public. Kids get embarrassed, and the lesson usually backfires.
“I do a thing called ‘prompt and praise,’ ” . “If we’re going out to do something special, I prompt them beforehand. If we’re going to a concert, I tell them they’ll have a chance to go the bathroom at intermission, rather than leave during the performance and interrupt the people around them. Then, I step back and let them be themselves. If they’ve behaved properly, I praise them afterward.”