Good manners mean something different to everyone. Depending on where you are from and how you were raised, your expectations of your child’s manners may differ from your neighbors. Some are heavy handed with manners ( “yes, sir” yes, ma’am” every time) and some are less so (“please” and “thank you” are sufficient). Wherever you land on this issue, there are some basics that each child needs to know. You are, after all, raising a future adult. Start early because some children take longer than others to learn the basics. For example, if your child is shy, eye contact may be harder. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of it, though. Here are some basic social skills/manners to teach and practice early on.
*Answering others when they speak to you. If your child feels too shy to respond to a greeting or answer a question, you can give alternatives. Perhaps he could give eye contact and wave if he is too shy to answer verbally, but the expectation is that he responds somehow and in a pleasant way.
*Giving eye contact when speaking to others. This can be really tough for some so practice, practice, practice. You can practice alone with your child if need be by having conversation and seeing if you can maintain eye contact the whole time.
*Not interrupting adults when they are speaking to one another. This is good practice for not interrupting others as a whole. A good tool is to teach your child to touch your hand or leg and then wait when he needs to speak to you. That tells you that he has something to say but he has not interrupted your conversation.
If your child does continue to interrupt, it may be helpful to remind him:
I see that you have something to tell me but I am talking to Mrs. Scott right now. When I am done, I will listen to what you need to tell me.
*Saying “please” and “thank you”. These are the bare minimum in manners and so important. Others will be much more receptive to your child’s needs if he is able to say “please” and “thank you”. Start this early and make sure to say “please” and “thank you” yourself. Your child is watching and listening! Insist on consistency and remind your child that,even if others don’t say it, your expectation is that your child does every time.
*Addressing other adults respectfully. Even if you allow your child to call your best friend by her first name, you might consider adding a “Ms.” or “Aunt” to the name. Your child is not an equal so make sure your are not sending that message by allowing him to be too casual with adults. The exception might be a child with a speech delay that is actually unable to say “Ms. Beth” – even if he calls the adult, “Beth”, you can still model, “Ms. Beth”.
*No means no! Teach your child early that when someone says “no” that means “stop”. Right then. This can be applicable to a variety of situations but it really teaches your child boundaries and to read social cues. An example would be if your child is taking toy form another child and the child says “no”. You can then say something like: I heard Sarah tell you “no” when you tried to take her doll. She isn’t done playing with it yet. When she is done, perhaps you can have a turn. Sarah, would that be ok?
It is hard work growing an adult but never lose sight of just that. Kids aren’t programmed to be polite. It is up to parents and caregivers to help them learn. Be patient. Be consistent. Your will happy that you started early.