Most new parents hope that their child will develop good manners as he grows; that he will be polite and respectful and always thinking of others.
The truth is that young children by nature are very self-centred, and it takes some time to develop good manners.
Fortunately, as with so many other childhood skills, children learn best from watching the caring adults in their lives. The way you interact with your child and others around you has a profound impact on the way your child will learn to communicate.
Here are some tips to help with developing good manners:
• The basics: please and thank you. When your child is still a baby, you can begin teaching good manners through your own actions. Use please and thank you when you are talking and playing with her. Long before she can talk, she knows that these are important words because she hears the adults around her saying them frequently.
• Playing nicely with others. It takes time for children to learn to share, take turns and co-operate. Expecting too much of a young child can be frustrating for both of you. However, there are many ways you can help your child learn to get along with others. Having a pretend tea party is ideal for modeling good manners. Playing a simple game or working together on a puzzle requires co-operation.
• Learning not to interrupt. Your child starts to learn about conversation long before he is able to speak. When you talk to your baby, wait a moment to let him respond with a babble, then ask a question or make a comment. He will learn that communication is a back and forth process. When he is older and impatiently tries to interrupt conversations, you can gently let him know that it is not his turn to speak yet. When you are able, give him your full attention and listen and respond to what he has to say.
• Being a good sport and handling disappointment. As children get older, they begin to realize that they cannot always have things their way, and this can be difficult to handle. Well-meaning parents may try to shelter their children from disappointments. While this is fine some of the time, learning to cope with disappointment is an important social skill. There will be times when your child will lose a game or get the cupcake with fewer sprinkles. Use these opportunities to help your child work through feelings of anger or jealousy.
When you experience minor setbacks in your own life, be aware of how you react and what you are teaching your child.
Good manners are a way of showing respect for the people around you. Children who are treated with respect by their parents learn to return that respect.
No child is going to be polite and well-mannered all the time, but by setting an example of respect in your home, as your child grows, she will develop and build on these much needed social skills.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers
parenting information and support.
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