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Yes, Please!

Where have all the manners gone? They’re long gone it would seem. Oh for the days when someone would lay down his coat over a muddy puddle for one to gracefully step upon so as not to dirty their white ankle length petticoats! But seriously, does anyone put themselves out for anyone else these days? How about doors, are they being opened for others? Or is someone always barging through, because they got there first and they’re definitely in a hurry.
Then there’s thank-you, or the lack thereof. Is it beneath us to utter these two humble words once in a while? Like the pedestrian on the crossing who has literally stopped traffic to cross the road, good manners says “thanks”, bad manners doesn’t bother.

Polite children in a rude world, it can be done. Modelling good manners is simply one of the most important things a parent can do to teach manners. Our children are born with many wondrous and innate abilities but politeness is not one of them. Our children constantly listen to us and watch what we do, how would you feel if your pre-schooler gave the finger to a fellow tricycle-rider on the cycle-lane? Not a thrilling thought? Let them see our good manners and use them as a way of life.

Learning to say “hello” and “goodbye” when greeting and meeting people is a great place for 1-2 year olds taking the first step toward good manners. For babies this can be as simple as learning to wave. Looking someone in the eyes when talking is good manners, but often a hard one even for some adults. Here’s a tip, turn it into a game, get your child to tell you the colour of people’s eyes, which will help with making eye contact when speaking to people.
How about those ‘magic’ words, “please” and “thank-you”. Babies don’t really grasp the meaning of them but forming good habits young is a great way to start out how one wants to continue. Progressing from “ta” to “thank-you” and establishing understanding and meaning from real words is all part of children’s cognitive and communicative development. Big kids with good manners are beautiful creatures. Manners are especially important if one’s going to a party or a sleepover!

Eating and good manners, now this is a big one in our house. We’ve we had the whole “don’t talk with your mouth full” conversations, the burping for the sake of burping loudly, and fingers instead of forks. Table etiquette is all important; as kids we all remember our parents saying “would you do that if the Queen was here”? Holding a knife and fork correctly, waiting for everyone to finish before leaving the table, and taking your own plate to the kitchen are a few ways 3-4 year olds can learn to be polite.

Turn-taking and sharing doesn’t always come easy with children. What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too can all too, is often the sentiment when it comes to toys, especially ones that have not been played with in ages but because you’ve got it, I want it! Good manners is learning to let others go before yourself; the kid that always pushes to be first lining up in the classroom may well end up being the road-hog who never lets anyone in and has no concept of merging like a zip!
We’ve had car issues, but they’re more to do with the ‘sitting in the front seat of the car’ thing! What is it with kids and wanting to be top dog in the car? After many a fight, we’ve got a system going that works well; you get one whole week in the front, then front seat status moves to the next one in line. I only have three cherubs so their turns role round pretty quick! Needless to say we’re mastering the art of turn-taking.

Learning to be kind, and how to say “sorry” also attributes to good manners. We don’t force our kiddos to say sorry as this can make the apology trite, but rather ask them to have a ‘think’ about what they should do next? Or ask “is there anything you think you could say now?”. You never know, being able to say sorry has saved many a marriage. We’ve just hit 20 years, and I’m definitely with the woman who said when asked, “Have you ever considered divorce”?, she replied “No, but murder, yes!”. I love mine desperately, but certainly have once in a while had to whisper, “I’m sorry”.

Ultimately my point being, manners learned maketh the man, or woman. Teaching our children good manners takes practice, consistency, and reinforcement. Mistakes will be made, correct them, and move on. By doing so, you will give your child a foundation for respectful successes in life, and they won’t look like beasts at the dinner table when out in public! Manners? Yes, please!

Shiree Meikle.

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