Today, I want to discuss why it’s never too early to teach your child manners.
There are generally two types of rude people:
- rude people who are intentionally being rude
- and, rude people who have no idea they are being rude!
We’ve probably all been on the receiving end of someone with a lack of manners-awareness and can understand how lacking that education can impact a person’s social success.
I genuinely think that there are a great number of children and adults who are not purposely eschewing manners — they are simply unaware of the cultural customs that they are not observing, and they are not aware of the impact that they are having on the people around them even though they may perceive that the other person is uncomfortable or unhappy with them. On the flip side, if you think of the graceful and mannered people that you know, you probably feel safe and happy in their presence.
Manners has a huge place in the Montessori curriculum, even having “Grace and Courtesy” as a central subject. It is such an integral part to the success of our Montessori activities.
Teaching manners is such a gift to a child, to grant them grace in social interactions and increase the likelihood that their social interactions are positive experiences. It also lays a foundation of respect.
Focusing on the manners that will be relevant to our children’s social experiences is important, and also understanding how others will perceive certain behaviours.
Even if we personally reject certain custom-based manners in our individual cultures, we can inadvertently do our children a disservice by sending them out into the world without at least informing them that certain expectations around behaviour exist, and that people will respond to them based on their perceived manners.
Consider the potential impact of the manners that you reject or neglect to teach:
- Will your child unintentionally cause hurt feelings or lose future opportunities/invitations (perhaps even friendships) based on their behaviour?
- Will your child encounter negative reactions from peers or others?
- Will your child have a hard time respecting people & boundaries?
- Will your child be removed from opportunities based on behaviour? (School, extra-curriculars, etc)
Why do parents neglect teaching manners?
Although there are several potential answers to this question, I think two major factors are:
- a lack of confidence in our ability to gently reinforce manners
- not perceiving the importance of manners to our children’s social experiences.
How Can I Teach My Child Manners?
Modelling is the first and foremost important task in teaching manners.
Using “please” and “thank you” and exercising kindness when speaking to and in front of our children goes a long way in encouraging manners. Even with spouses, many can fall into the trap of forgetting to use manners in our interactions with our partners, but this is the most impactful relationship our child witnesses.
Role-playing is also a great method for teaching manners. Practice situations that your child may encounter, everything from blowing their nose to how to react to a mean comment.
Reading stories. Read picture books or tell personal anecdotes that emphasize manners, or show what can happen with a lack of manners. I’ll come up with a list of picture books for teaching manners ASAP, but off of the top of my head, I love the Robert Munsch books, Berenstein Bears series, and Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books for their approach to teaching manners in a developmentally appropriate way.