Award-Winning Author | Manners Expert | Mom
Are you confused about how and when to begin teaching your kids to be polite?
Take this quick, quiz to find your Raising Polite Kids parenting style.
Pick one answer to finish the following sentence:
I think the time to begin teaching my child good manners is:
1) when she begins to talk
2) when she goes to preschool
3) right before Great Aunt Bessie visits to celebrate her fifth birthday
Raising Polite Kids: The Answers
First, there is no perfect answer. The quiz is designed to explain how you view the topic, as well as the probable results of a particular choice.
Answer #3: You will need broad shoulders and a good sense of humor.
Hopefully Great Aunt Bessie has one, too! If your child is actively interacting with others and still unaware of basic courtesies it is going to be a long week.
Hissing directions in her ear (“Say thank you to Aunt Bessie”) or attempting to maneuver her through social situations with a vice grip on her shoulder will at best confuse her and at worst cause her to act out.
Bottom Line: Children do not acquire good manners immediately; they need practice, lots of practice. The longer you wait to begin teaching good manners, the harder your job.
Answer #2: You’re journey is long, and uphill, but you can do it!
If you view good manners as something used outside the home in more formal settings with people other than your immediate family, I hope you will help your child by reconsidering your position.
Waiting to teach your child the basics of kind, courteous, gracious behavior until she is ready to go to school with “strangers” sends her a message that rude behavior is permissible around the people who she loves the most.
Bottom Line: If your child has not been expected to use good manners in your home, the chances are slim that she will find it worthwhile to learn to politely interact with people in other places and situations. You will have an uphill battle, but it’s never too late!
Answer #1: You get a gold star!
The moment your child begins to utter her first words, you can begin to introduce good manners. Start by teaching her “please” and “thank you.” She will adopt the ritual before she comprehends the concept of courtesy, but with consistent instruction your job will be half done.
Bottom Line: At each phase of her development introduce the good behaviors that will help her grow into a kind, considerate, gracious person. And as important, be sure to model the behaviors you want her to adopt.
Introducing your children to good manners at a very early age makes your goal of raising polite kids not just possible, but probable. An early start gives them the opportunity to ease into becoming kind civil human beings in a fluid and organic way, and makes your work much easier.
About Beth Brainard
Beth Brainard writes manners and life skills books for kids, teaches etiquette classes for children and young adults, and speaks to parenting groups and organizations. Etiquette IQ is her specialty! Learn more about her award-winning book Soup Should Be Seen, Not Heard here.
Over the course of her career Beth ran a consulting firm specializing in social and corporate protocol, created and taught a K-5 etiquette curriculum, hosted a radio talk show for parents called “Kids Don’t Come With an Owner’s Manual,” and participated in the formation of the Josephson Institute’s K-12 Character Counts! program.
To put her sons through college she served as a Director of Communications for divisions of Disney World and Harvard University. Beth is a graduate of Harvard University and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Paul. They have LOTS of kids.
This post was originally posted in March 2013 on the now-defunct Mom’s Choice Matters blog.