Hello from Montana:
Can Young Children be Expected to Have Manners?
We have a house full of visitors this summer and lots of children running in and out of the doors, and lots of fingers grabbing for food. I am struck by how kind some of the children are and how thoughtless others seem to be. It doesn't seem to be a manner of training, since they come from similar backgrounds and are similar ages.It does seem to be clear that one family has consistent expectations, and the other does not always follow through with training or discipline.
Friendliness is Basis of all Relationships
Being a considerate and helpful friend is one of the simplest and most appreciated good manners that a person of any age can have. The first response usually sets the tone for the relationship and a simple smile and hello is always welcome. If the adult is a relative or close friend, hugs are always a hit. While I would never insist that a child hug or kiss someone if they feel uncomfortable, a three to five year old can be expected to look at the person and say hello. Some children feel comfortable shaking hands, which is a sure sign of respect for the older person.
Older Children Need to be Taught to Introduce Others
Between six to nine years, most children can handle a simple introduction like, "Mom, this is my friend Chase Brown, who is in my class. Chase, this is my Mom, Mrs. Jones." Help them to understand that introductions go "oldest to youngest, then youngest to oldest." Also by mentioning his mother's last name, Chase is given a subtle hint on what she would like to be called. It is good manners to call adults Mr. or Mrs. unless the adult gives the child permission to address them by another name.
By the age of ten or twelve, a child should have developed enough interpersonal skills to introduce themselves to adults, shake hands and say "I am glad to have met you." or "Thank you for inviting me, I had a nice time." when leaving.
Moving from Greeting to Conversation
The basis of manners is making the other person feel at ease and comfortable in your presence. One way you do that is to talk about what interests them. Teach children to ask questions (but not too personal) to the other person. Help them to focus on what the other person is saying, verbally and non verbally in order to get conversation clues.
Pleasure to Meet Polite People
Children, teens and adults who are polite, well mannered and well behaved stand out in our mind. They appear confident and self assured and are a pleasure to be around.
The life skills of greeting, getting along and building relationships, will put your child in good stead for the rest of his or her life. The polite person is well regarded in the workplace and community. It is well worth the effort to expect good manners at all times and remind them when they forget to say "thank you" and "you are welcome."
You may want to do role playing to teach these valuable skills. You can practice greeting people and moving into a conversation. Children are much more confident when they have had an opportunity to practice and know the words to say.
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