Teaching manners and social skills to children

(c) Judy Helm Wright aka Auntie Artichoke

Are you embarrassed when your teenager shovels his food, or your toddler eats with her fingers? What part do manners play in the social skills necessary to be a confident adult?

Manners have a purpose

People who behave in a polite way make life easier for everyone around them.  Etiquette and manners make human relationships more pleasant and provide for an acceptable way to communicate and interact with others.

Good manners show your consideration of other people and your desire to make them feel comfortable when they are with you.   Kids who show respect for the feelings of others are preferred playmates; and they are more often invited to homes of relatives and neighbors.  This is important because all children need a community of caring adults to help them reach their full potential.

Develop Respect

Parents and other caring adults teach respectful manners by modeling them on a daily basis.  To develop respectful children, adults must respect and listen to their concerns.  Teaching manners is a way to put respect into action.

Authentic respect for self and others is a learned behavior.  You can help your child develop good manners by setting the example, teaching them basic etiquette, and showing them what to do.

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I taught our children how to set the table by holding my palm up and showing  left, which has 4 letters so fork  goes on left. Form a sign with fingers for a b and that reminds you to put the bread plate on left. Right has 5 letters so knife and spoon go on right.  Again form a letter with your  right thumb and fingers and it will be a d, which reminds you to put the drink on the right.

Don’t say don’t

When you have made the decision to not only model good behavior, but actively teach it, why not do it in a mannerly, polite way?  When you start sentences with “don’t put your elbows….” or “don’t pick your nose”  kids become defensive.

Instead of telling them what you don’t want, tell them what you do want.  “I want you to put your arm on your lap when you finish cutting your meat.”  “I want you to smile at Grandma when we see her.”

Using positive words and actions, you can direct your child to more positive manners and mannerisms that will serve him or her well in life.  For instance: “I like to hear you say your name when you are calling someone.  That helps them to know who you are and keeps them from having to guess. It shows respect for them when you announce your name.”

Another way to model and teach social skills and manners to kids is to make it a family project.  Say “this week we are going to concentrate on saying thank you when someone is helpful to us.  Let’s keep track and every time we forget, we will put a nickle in the jar, not as a punishment, but to keep score on how often we forget to say thank you.  At the end of the week, we will give the money to a charity.  It will be a reminder to  all of us to remember to say thank you.”

Self-Awareness Quiz

  1. Are you offended when someone talks with their mouth full of food?  Can you explain why this offends you to your child?
  2. Do you think manners matter in life? Are social skills important?  Why?
  3. Will you make an effort to tell your child what you do want instead of what you don’t want? Do you think this will be more effective in teaching manners to your children?

PS:  Thank you for sharing this time with Judy Helm Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, the storytelling trainer.  If your organization would like to hire Judy to speak at a conference, please call 406-549-9813  You will be glad you did.

Social skills and manners for children