Teaching Kids Etiquette Gives Them Confidence
When you think about teaching manners to your children, do you think about quiet little angels sitting still at the table, arms down, chewing their food, and responding positively to your every request? Probably not.
“Please quit interrupting others!”
“Would you stop talking with your mouth full!”
“I asked you to stop fidgeting at the table.”
And my personal favorite: “Please use your inside voice!”
Repeat those phrases about 1,000 times and you have my experience of learning and teaching manners. For many modern parents, manners equal nagging reminders and no fun. Often I find myself saying these phrases with food still in my mouth, in a voice that is too loud for the table, and making a commotion that derails everyone’s dinner conversation. If I’m not teaching and modeling good manners then how can I expect my children to be well mannered?
Focus on the True Purpose of Manners
The purpose of manners is to build confidence in specific situations and to show respect for others. Isn’t it ironic that the common way of teaching manners, through nagging, reduces confidence and is disrespectful? It is critical to stay focused on our role as a manners “coach” and to remember that we are teaching them to know what to do when we aren’t around to help out. This frame of mind moves us from being a nagging manager of their behavior at this moment to a more effective parenting paradigm, that of teacher and coach preparing them for their future.
Guidelines for teaching manners to children (of all ages).
- Model what you want them to do. Point out what you are doing and tell them why you do it.
- Try not to correct on the spot if you are upset. Instead pause and try to connect with them afterwards. Once you feel connected, that is the best time to correct/teach them.
- Explain why manners are important in a specific situation and why it benefits them to know what to do.
- Stay age appropriate and child specific. Build little lessons into larger ones.
- Use family meetings as a time to talk about manners in the context of upcoming events. Have a wedding coming up? Talk about how manners will be important at the event so that they feel comfortable and know what to do.
- Be an encouraging coach! When they get it right, acknowledge that you noticed and ask them how it felt to know what to do. When they get it wrong, tell them that you have faith in them and encourage them to keep practicing.
Think of Yourself as a Manners “Coach”
Imagine you are a child and are heading to the big game after a lot of practice. Your coach has been working with you on your skills and you know what you need to do. You are prepared and confident. You go in the game…and blow a chance to score. The coach notices that you are clearly being hard on yourself and have lost your confidence so he begins to nag you repeatedly about what you should be doing. In fact, he loses focus on the rest of the team and the game just to tell you what you are doing wrong!
That isn’t how any of us would coach our star player for the big game, so why would we do the same with teaching manners. The big game is that event that you will be attending in a month (wedding, prom, party, etc) and the practice sessions are family meetings and dinners out as a family. If you focus on coaching your child for the big “manners” game it will be a lot more fun for both of you!
by Jeff Everage