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Manners for preschoolers

Your children first learn manners at home. From your instruction and example, children establish a basic understanding of how they should interact with people and behave in a variety of situations. Here are some basic manners for preschoolers you can help your little ones learn.

Preschooler eating

Greeting people

Computers and texting enable people to have lengthy conversations without ever actually talking to one another. As a result of these technological advances, we’re horribly out of practice in face-to-face dealings with one another.

While we encourage our preschoolers to become proficient in the use of a mouse or computer keyboard, we shouldn’t do so at the expense of teaching basic people-to-people skills like these:

  • Acknowledging others
  • Making eye contact
  • Saying hello and good-bye
  • Answering questions when asked
  • Speaking respectfully

Model these positive behaviors for your young children and require them to do the same.

‘Please’ and ‘thank you’

These may be the easiest manners to enforce with your preschoolers. When they need or want something, firmly ask for a polite and respectful “please.” (“What’s the magic word?”) Before long, saying “please” will be second nature.

“Thank you” is equally important. Train your children to say thanks whenever they receive something from another person. If they cannot offer a direct thank-you, help them do so by phone. Follow with a written thank-you note. (At this age, you can write out a note to which your child can simply add his or her name.)

Once again, reiterate the important of “please” and “thank you” by extending the same courtesy to your child: “Please pick up your books.” “Thank you for the beautiful drawing.”

Table manners

Good table manners start at home. Your child needs to practice these skills in order to use them outside the home at birthday parties, Gram’s house, the school cafeteria or a restaurant.

You can’t instill good table manners if your child doesn’t eat at the table. Family meals are the best way to model and teach proper mealtime behavior. If your preschooler is eating every meal on a TV tray in the living room, she won’t get the practice she needs to really develop good manners like these:

  • Chewing with your mouth closed
  • Sitting quietly for the duration of the meal
  • Taking turns talking
  • Not talking with a mouthful of food
  • Eating what is served
  • Holding utensils correctly
  • Using napkins

‘I’m sorry’

When your children hurt someone or break a rule, teach them to say “I’m sorry.” Preschoolers are primed for this sort of training: They’re looking for an out when they’ve done something wrong.

This is one area, perhaps, where we adults might learn something from our children. While some of us tend to hold grudges for a long time, or have trouble admitting we might not have been right, kids are usually able to figure out how to kiss and make up.

Accept your child’s apologies gracefully. Let them know that a sincere apology will always make things better. And practice what you preach. Let your child witness your apology to someone you’ve wronged — especially if that someone is your child.

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