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Some parents of young children either think manners are too "old school" or that it's too much trouble to take the time to teach them. But having good manners says a lot about a person, and it's never too young to start. I am always impressed when a child or young adult displays nice manners in conversation or in a public situation. What are some of the manners that stand the test of time? These seven are worth making the effort to teach your kids.
Meeting someone for the first time
Many adults even have difficulty with this one, but it's a good way to make a great first impression. When your child meets an adult, teach him to say, "Nice to meet you," and look the adult in the eye. Add in a handshake if you'd like, or wait to see if the adult offers a hand. But meeting another child is a different story. Whether at the park, the children's museum or at school, there are many instances where a child might meet another child, even if briefly. Practice role playing this with your child, so they are comfortable meeting someone new. "My name is Bob, do you want to play on the swings?" is enough of an introduction between kids, and immediately sets the other child at ease.
Asking for something
This seems like human nature and you may be wondering why you would need to model or teach this to your kids. But actually asking someone for something can be overwhelming, even for adults. If your Jimmy would like a glass of water and he is playing at a friend's house, he needs to know how to ask his friend's mother for a glass of water in a nice manner and using please. I am a sucker for the "nice ask" and am always impressed when my kids' friends ask so nicely. This can also be tied in with learning how to have phone conversations.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, there are an amazing number of young people — and adults — who don't thank people for what they have done. When your child heads out into the world on his own, whether to a birthday party or on a field trip, she needs to give a simple "thank you" to the people who make it happen. Role playing makes this easier, because some kids are stumped as to who and when to thank. Teach them to thank for snacks and meals, for a ride home or to soccer practice, and even for the classroom volunteers who teach about science or help with math. The more they say it, the more comfortable it will become.
Talking on the phone
Notice I said "talking" and not texting. The younger generation as a whole is horrible at having an actual conversation on the telephone. There will still be instances where they need to make an actual phone call, and they need to be ready. Practice making simple phone calls first, like calling a local store to see what time they close on Saturday. Teach them to give a proper greeting and a succinct sentence or two about why they are calling — and follow it all up with a thank you at the end. This also includes learning how to answer the phone and take a message.
Oh, the table manners… we could go on and on. But besides the old adage to keep your elbows off the table and chew your food with your mouth closed, there are a few basic manners many families are skipping. When you are seated at the table for a meal in someone else's home, you should wait to begin eating until all have been seated and served. Watch the hostess for the clue that it's time to begin eating. In our time-crunched lives these days people often begin eating as soon as they sit down, which is considered rude when you are a guest in someone's home. Napkin on your lap, and stay seated at the table until excused or the meal has ended. And it's always polite to...
Accept the meal graciously
The other simple manner of etiquette that seems to be extinct is taking what food is offered graciously and without negative comment. Now obviously we aren't talking about food allergies here, which you should politely bring up at the time of the invitation to dine in someone's home. But by the day of the event, there should be no more special requests. If you child hates spinach salad, for instance, she needs to learn how to politely take a bit and say thank you. Who knows, trying something you don't usually like that is prepared in a different way may change your mind?
Now this may sound all Emily Post, but hear me out. The younger generation spends so much time texting and IMing that they haven't been taught how to have an actual conversation. Teach and role play different ways to start a conversation, such as asking a polite question, and how to keep it going until it's time to move on. There are many times when children might need to strike up a conversation, whether at their grandparents' house or at an after-school club meeting. The more you engage others in conversation, the easier it gets.
What old-fashioned manners are you teaching your kids? Share in the comment section.