As parents, it is our job to ensure that our children grow up knowing and practising good manners. It is not always the easiest thing to instil – especially in young toddlers. From birth onwards, it is a child’s instinct to be somewhat selfish in order to self-preserve. Often, from one to two years old, you will find children playing alongside each other as opposed to with each other. It is our responsibility to encourage them to play with each other, share and have good manners. But how do we go about it? The experts say there are three main ways to instill manners from a young age.
The first is to practise what you preach. From a few months old, babies are already very aware of their parents. As they start growing, they look to you for the ways in which they should be communicating and acting. If they continuously witness mom and dad being courteous, empathetic and aware of others, they will be more inclined to act the same way.
The second tool can be used from around one year of age. Remind your child to use their magic words. Repetition is the key here. Reminding them to say please, thank you and hello are the initial steps in teaching them good manners. As their communication skills develop, so will their amount of magic words.
The third method is to make sure they are around other people or children on a regular basis. Not only will this let them see you using your manners in real life, but it will get them used to company and using magic words themselves. A social setting such as a Toptots class is a great way to introduce your baby or young toddler to the ways in which they should interact with each other.
Some important things to remember when teaching manners:
- If your young toddler is playing with a toy and another child cries for it, you do not have to insist that your child gives up the toy in order to teach them to share. Try saying
“Please will you give *Sarah a chance to play with the toy when you are done playing?”
- This teaches them the concept of sharing, but also how to set boundaries for themselves.
- Manners are not physical. Many parents find it rude that their child does not hug or kiss a family member. Or perhaps a bit embarrassed when their child refuses to return a greeting to the lady they don’t know at the shops. We can’t teach our children about respecting their own bodies and space, or about ‘stranger danger’, and then expect them to do the above-mentioned things as well. Your child has a right to say no, you can just give them the tools to do that in a respectful way. If they don’t want to hug a family member, encourage them to wave or high-five instead. The granny at the shops that says hello to them? You can say hello for them.
- Be patient. Children are naturally self-centred, so you need to give them the time and space to put what you have taught them into practise. Give them a chance to say their magic words before you jump in and remind them right away. If they forget or come across rude, try explaining to them why this is the case in a calm manner.