Can you relate to this scenario? You’re at a restaurant with your family. The waiter places the bread basket on the table in front of your son. He grabs a roll, slathers it with butter and stuffs half the roll in his mouth as he exclaims, “Finally! I’m starving!” He laughs at the joke his brother just told while crumbs fly across the table from his mouth. Butter is all over his chin and of course, his napkin is still neatly folded at the place setting.
What is a parent to do?
I believe most parents want to raise well-mannered children, but it certainly is a battle at times. There are many reasons young people don’t see the value in behaving with good manners.
Some teens feel that good manners aren’t genuine. “It’s all so fake and phony,” a middle schooler once told me. Some teenagers also think that manners are just too much trouble. As you may have noticed; teenagers tend to be a little lazy at times! Or perhaps your children say the same thing I’ve heard at the dinner table, “I know what to do when it really matters, Mom.”
Despite all the challenges, I’m a believer in teaching children good manners.
Your path is easier and smoother when you know the rules. Those of us in the “real world” see this every day: People who have a foundation of good manners and who treat others with consideration navigate the world more confidently, are viewed as leaders and they just seem to enjoy life more. Research has proven the value of having good manners. Studies conducted by the Carnegie Foundation and Harvard University found that strong “people skills” accounted for 85% of workplace success. So moms, this is a battle worth fighting!
I tell my students in my manners classes and camps that even the brightest, sharpest person will appear quite the opposite if he or she has poor manners.
So, how do we instill good manners in our children? Here are five practical tips for you:
- Model the behavior you’d like to see in your kids. For instance, if you insist that your children use please, thank you, and excuse me; then be sure you use these phrases yourself when you’re dealing with your family. Model considerate behavior when you’re out and about and dealing with service people. Learn about table manners, teach them to your children, and use them at every meal.
- Point out considerate behavior when you see it in others. For instance, “I really liked how John was a leader and introduced us to his cousins when we saw him at the store today.” or “I’m impressed with Susan because she always smiles and asks about me and my family when I see her. She’s so considerate.”
- Give your children opportunities to practice their social skills. Allow them to place orders and deal with adults on their own while you’re in the background. Have your child introduce herself to your friends rather than you doing it for her. Let them make phone calls to schedule their appointments. Your behind the scenes coaching mixed with real-world practice will build their confidence over time.
- When coaching your children about manners don’t argue or criticize. Just be positive and persistent. It will be frustrating- after all, it is parenting! You may only get forced cooperation at times.
- Find manners themed classes, camps, and workshops in your community for your children to participate in. I offer these types of classes in my town and they’re a great way for children to learn and practice social skills, manners, and leadership in a socially safe, fun setting.
Teach social confidence and good manners as soon as your child can walk and talk. It’s never too early (it’s also never too late) to begin.
Most young people do come to understand the point of politeness if they have been exposed to the rules of good manners and consideration during their growing up years.
Who knows? Someday they may even thank you for teaching them good manners!
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