Teaching Manners to Children

Today's children may be growing up in a world with new challenges and new conveniences, but there will always be a need for good manners.  With television, movies and music demonstrating increasingly violent content, children are frequently exposed to cruel and unkind messages.  It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children how to be respectful and considerate of others.  While it's never too early or too late to begin teaching manners, children are most receptive to learning matters of etiquette between the ages of 2 to 5.  Luckily, teaching manners can be an easy process when you keep the right methods in mind.

First, when instructing children, it's important not to lecture.  Explain things in a simple and clear fashion, especially for the youngest children.  Be sure to give a reason for the behavior so that your child understands why it is the proper way to act.  Work on one target behavior at a time, such as sharing, saying "thank you" or taking turns, and follow through with the lesson every time.  Children learn through consistency and repetition.

In place of lecturing, parents should teach by example.  Children are masters of imitation.  They repeat the words they hear and mimic the behaviors they witness.  Parents must demonstrate the proper ways to act in various situations.  Show the same respect to your child that you expect him to show to others by saying "please," "thank you" and "excuse me."  Also, you may point out other examples of good behavior to your child when you encounter other well-behaved children.

It is important to give your child concrete examples of how to behave.  Instead of a generic "Be good!" try to tell him a specific way to behave, such as "don't bang on the table."  When going out, explain ahead of time what behaviors are expected at certain places, so that your child knows the right way to act.  However, try not to place unattainable standards on your child -- try to request only that which you know your child is capable of.  Your can help your child practice the correct ways to behave with dolls or stuffed animals.

So what do you do when your child still demonstrates bad manners?  Rather than scolding a child for bad behavior, try to correct the problem by suggesting a better way to act.  Positive reinforcement works much better than negative reinforcement, so be sure to always praise your child's good behavior, and deal promptly but gently with bad behavior.  You may even choose to create a reward chart with stickers to notate and later reward your child's good behavior.

Remember, it may take time for your child to learn all the many rules of good behavior.  Most children don't grasp the concept of other people's feelings until they are 7 or 8 years old.  Patience and understanding are the key during your attempts to teach your child how to behave.  Stay consistent and it won't be long before your little one is impressing you with great manners.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.