Whether it's a child being permitted to throw a tantrum unnecessarily or a co-worker that never recognizes the help you provide — we've all witnessed bad manners at play. And for the most part, those negative habits take root because they weren't caught and dealt with at a young age. But if you can instill these five rules of etiquette in your wee ones early, chances are they'll grow up to be respectiful and polite adults.
Sure, as Canadians we often get teased for apologizing profusely to someone who rudely bumps into us or saying thank you several times to the person who drops off our pizza. Generally speaking, we are so gracious it's almost humorous and this is a great trait to have. But this kindness isn't innate, it's learned. So until it becomes second nature, make sure you're reminding your little ones to respond to others with these polite terms.
How many times have you phoned another family and had a child answer the phone with a "yeah?" Teach your children to answer politely, using their own names, such as "Smith residence, David speaking." Gracious telephone manners will always be an asset.
Whether it's for a birthday or holiday, kids receive plenty of gifts from friends and family. For the kindness and generosity shown, they need to have an early understanding that an acknowledgement is always in order. You can help smaller children write thank you notes by writing a few words and letting them make a crayon mark or drawing. As the child gets older, supervise and help as needed until they are able to manage on their own. Make it fun by letting them add special stickers or rubber stamps. In the distant future, these children will be ahead of the crowd when it's time to write a gracious note to a prospective employer thanking them for an interview. The practice and the habit will pay off.
Mealtime is arguably the most etiquette-fueled period, and a child who gets those manners engrained early on will have a far easier time sticking to them down the road. Sharing meals together is a learning ground and the ideal place to teach children how to eat like ladies and gentlemen. From practicing how to use cutlery correctly to clearing plates appropriately, kids will absorb good manners — with occasional gentle prodding — as you eat together as a family.
When kids are very little they are in their own little world and that's OK. But as they begin to approach seven or eight you'll want to teach them about the rules of conversation. Let them practice being conversational with family and friends. Teach them about the back and forth that is required when communicating and the importance of asking questions and answering those that are provided. Encourage them to make eye contact and be polite. These skills will be beneficial both socially and professionally for the rest of their lives.
Ultimately, all the instructions and nagging in the world won't get your little ones to magically comply. What will? Leading by example. When they hear you saying please and thank you and see you writing out thank you letter after thank you letter when a holiday or birthday is over, those manners will be instilled in them for life. Every day is another opportunity to show your child the way to stand apart from others with good manners. Practice makes habits and these habits will be beneficial for a lifetime.
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