Raising Well-Mannered Children
Do you dream of raising polite, likeable, and friendly children? It's never too early (or too late!) to teach the fine art of etiquette and good manners to your kids.
The Road to Charming Children is Paved with Little Lessons
The following is a review of basic rules of etiquette for the family. Don’t expect a child to know or do all of these at once, but instill these rules with her over time—and don’t forget that your child is watching your behavior, too.
At the Table:
Place your napkin in your lap and use it to clean your face as needed. Senning believes that a child’s first napkin is a bib.
Do not put your elbows on the table. Sit up and show respect during dinner conversation.
If you need something on the table, do not reach. Instead, say, “Please pass the (insert item).”
If you need to use the bathroom or leave the table, ask, “May I please be excused?”
When finished eating, place your silverware on your plate and your hands in your lap. If parents allow children to leave the table before the meal is over, children should ask to be excused.
Only speak about pleasant topics at the table. If you must burp or pass gas, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. If you sneeze, turn your head away from the table and use your napkin to cover your mouth, then offer an apology or say, “Please excuse me.”
On the Phone:
Families should determine when a child is old enough to answer the telephone and what the appropriate greeting is for their household. Review this greeting with children to make sure they understand expected behavior.
Never yell into the phone. If the caller requests someone else, ask him to please hold, then lay the phone down gently and go find the person the caller requested.
Hold the phone receiver a few inches from your mouth when speaking.
Always end a conversation by saying, “Goodbye.”
At a Restaurant:
Use proper table manners when dining out.
Never yell, run, stand in chairs, or play at a restaurant.
Do not reach for items on servers’ trays. Let them serve you.
Do not talk on a cell phone during a meal. Engage in conversation with other diners at your table.
If a child needs something, she should ask a parent. Children should not order items for themselves without permission.
Treat servers with respect, saying “please” and “thank you.” When addressing a server, make eye contact.
In the Car, Bus, Plane, or Theater:
Do not yell, throw things, or kick the seat in front of you. Speak using inside voices.
Respect the space of others. Children can pretend to have an imaginary bubble or hula-hoop around them so they do not invade the personal space of others.
If children are bored, they should not sigh heavily or make obnoxious sounds. They can play quiet thinking games like spelling the alphabet from signs or a magazine, or classic favorites like “I Spy” and “Categories.”
“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”
Instilling manners in children can benefit them for years to come in marriage, parenting, business, and in their communities. Mannerly people are usually likable people, because manners signify self-confidence and respect for others. Proper etiquette can win jobs, attract friends, and influence others.
Like brushing teeth and tying shoes, manners must be taught. Children don’t inherently act charming—they must be trained, mentored, and disciplined in the fine art of etiquette. If parents want to reverse the statistics and build a better community for their children and grandchildren, they must start at home. Raising charming children can be frustrating and challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable, for both the child and the community in which he or she lives.
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