Children are learning both good and bad behavior from what they watch on TV, in movies and online. It is up to us as caregivers to teach them what is worthwhile and how to respond properly, while modeling appropriate behavior and manners ourselves.
You want your children to grow up to be confident and not be afraid to advocate for themselves — but not at the expense of being respectful or having empathy for others.
Teach your children to reach out to shake someone’s hand in greeting and to open a door for an elderly person — whether at home or in public. Modeling basic manners consistently will reinforce what you teach your kids. In order to feel safe and secure, children need consistency. They want you to consistently set guidelines and correct them when they stray from those guidelines. That makes them feel loved. With respectful teaching, they will understand the love and respect you have for them. Consider discipline not as a punishment, but rather a learning experience and a work in progress as each day passes.
Make sure your kids learn the importance of saying please when asking for something and thank-you after receiving it. In addition to saying thank-you, children should learn the value of writing thank-you notes. Thank-you notes are a wonderful way to show appreciation for a gift or an invitation. The notes should be handwritten — not typed or emailed — and sent within a few days of receiving a gift or attending a party or sleepover, etc. You can make the process fun for your children by using paper or cards made especially for writing thank-you notes. Artistically inclined kids can create a card using their own creative skills.
Instilling Good Table Manners
Another important part of developing good manners is learning how to behave during mealtime, whether dining at your kitchen table or in a restaurant. This is another instance where children will model what they see in adults, so be sure to put your napkin on your lap, sit up straight, close your mouth while chewing and eat at a moderate pace. The best place to learn table manners is at the dinner table, so turn off the TV and gather your family in the kitchen or dining room for meals.
Addressing Kids’ Queries
Kids are filled with curiosity and ask so many questions — answer them in an age-appropriate way, turning each opportunity into a teachable moment.
* Role-play. Pose a circumstance and discuss the appropriate response, so when your kids are in a particular situation they will feel more confident about what to say or do. At mealtime give the reason for saying thank-you after a dish is passed around the table. Over time your children will mimic this behavior. Manners go a long way.
* Again, be consistent so your kids don’t get confused.
* Praise your children’s efforts.
* When a situation or circumstance permits, talk about fundamental manners. Ask your children for feedback. “What could we have said to a teacher or classmate when they picked your pencil off the floor and handed it to you?”
* Focus on the interaction, rather than your child. Rather than saying, “You didn’t say thank-you,” you could say, “Remember when we talked about this?” This is a teachable moment, not one to make your children feel threatened or feel bad.
With the basic fundamentals rooted in our children, they will be more confident, understand they matter as people and citizens, and build character that will help them respond to the world in a healthy, respectful way.
Rhonda Hertwig, MSN, CPNP, AE-C, is an active member of two special interest groups within NAPNAP as well as AAE & NASN. She has a special interest in asthma and school nursing.