Pragmatic Mom

January 15, 2010

Mind Your Manners! (Please…)

My husband grew up in a military family so manners was a really big deal and he has beautiful manners.  He’s not from the South, but he’s even got the Sir/Ma’am thing down.  Manner are so important to him, or rather, bad manners are so offensive to him, that I refer to him as the Manners Nazi.

I, on the other hand, was raised by parents a generation older than my peer’s parents.  My husband thinks I was raised by wolves.  Naturally, manners responsibility fell in his lap.  After he stayed home with our first, the outcome was so positive that I tried to emulate what he did.  And, as our children have venture off on independent play dates, sleepovers, and dinners at other people’s houses and country clubs, it become to us how important instilling manners at a VERY YOUNG age is.

We, as parents, notice when play dates come over and 1) say  “please,” “thank you” and “no, thank you” and 2) clear their dishes without being asked, and 3) make eye contact.  We also notice when play dates come over and 1) touch all the food on the communal platter before selecting their choice, 2) leave their dishes, 3) forget the “thank you” part of “no”.  We really want the former group hanging out at our house and we want our children to be close friends with those guys!

But, how does that happen?  What parenting did or did not happen in group two?  I’m not sure, but here’s what worked for us.

From birth through forever, although by 4-5 years old seems to penetrate the inner recesses of their brains:

  • Model polite language.  Talk to your baby before s/he is talking and ALWAYS say “please”, “thank you” and “no, thank you.”
  • As you child begins to talk, correct EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE that s/he fails to say “please”, “thank you” and “no, thank you.”
  • Give recognition every time your child says please, thank you and no, thank you.
  • Notice how others will give positive reinforcement for “please”, “thank you” and “no, thank you” because no one expects it in a 2, 3 or 4- year-old.
  • By age 5, this will become automatic.  Yay!  First phase is completed!

From age 3-5, teach your children to:

  • Clear their plate and utensils after every meal.  First to the general vicinity of the kitchen.  Then to the sink.  Finally, scrape plate and put in dishwasher.  (big help for mom!)
  • Make eye contact when you greet or thank someone.  Make eye contact in general when you converse.
  • If you have a son, teach him to hold the door for the ladies.
  • By age 5-7, this will become automatic.  Yay!  Second phase is completed!

From 2-10, talk about gratitude…

  • Thank the cook for every meal.  “Thank you Dad for this nice meal.”
  • Thank the mom, dad and birthday child for the nice party.  “Thank you for the nice party.”  “Goodbye and happy birthday.”
  • Say what you are thankful for…we don’t do this every meal, but we sometimes hold hands and go around the table.  The kids will sometimes say the funniest things so for comedy value alone, this is very worthwhile.  Yay!  Third phase is completed!  Your child has all the basics to function independently.  Sit back and let the parents tell you how wonderfully polite your child was at their house.  You deserve it.  Your work is not done (when is it ever done?), but the foundation has been laid and it’s a solid one!

Honestly, good manners is a simple as a consistent, please, thank you and no, thank you.  Isn’t that the first words we learn when we arrive in a foreign country?  Even before, “Where is the bathroom?”  It makes the world a nicer place and lubricates social interactions.  But the key is early education and consistency.

Thank you for reading!

P.S.  One unfortunate outcome of this training is that you will find that you will be unable to stop correcting anyone who fails to say, “please,” “thank you” and “no, thank you.”  You will correct your child’s play date friends.  You will correct your spouse.  You will correct complete strangers.  You have become…a Manners Nazi.

Here are some fun books about manners.  If you click on the book
, you can purchase at
.  Thank you!

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