Teaching Please and Thank You from the Start
For good manners to come naturally they need to be more of a habit than a teaching. Even if your little one is still too young to talk, be sure to make a point of saying please when you are about to take something from them and thank you when they hand you something, share with you, or even when they offer you a hug. Try to be conscientious about this with others around you too, at this age everything your child sees and hears will influence their mannerisms and the interactions they make when they start to talk for themselves! It is true your child will learn many social skills when they start to attend a playschool or early learning centre, but the more prepared they can be to play nicely, the better.
Having good manners is more about respect for others than it is about etiquette or social graces. If your child instinctively knows what may or may not hurt someone’s feelings – and that hurting someone’s feeling is bad – then they are already learning to be sensitive and respectful. Let your child know that people have emotional feelings as well as physical ones, and that it is wrong to hurt either of these. If they are enrolled and already attend a childcare centre encourage your child to talk about their day and their feelings for other playmates. Simply thinking about how things might make others feel is a big part of learning respect.
Politeness comes in many forms, from ‘Excuse me,’ when you need to get past someone, to ‘Pardon me!’ after an unexpected bout of flatulence! They are all great learning experiences for your little one to observe and copy. Gently bring their hand to their mouth when they cough or sneeze, say ‘Bless you!’ and get into the habit of using a clean tissue rather than a dirty bib or blanket… it might be headed for a hot wash, but the association will then be made between fabrics being perfectly appropriate snot-mopers!
Some other tips include using your child’s name and also encouraging them to address you appropriately. The difference between, ‘Can I have a cookie?’ and ‘Mum, please could I have a cookie?’ is amazing, and even works sometimes! (Warning: kids are clever, rationing cookies is still very important). In situations with other adults be sure to acknowledge your child, even if they are still very young they will feel respected by your inclusion, and as we all know respect is mutual.
When I was a child I HATED being asked the ‘Magic word’, it annoyed me so much that I would say ‘Abracadabra’ out of frustration. I knew very well that please wasn’t magic, it was just a word that needed to be said when asking for something, politely. And as you know children don’t always feel like being polite. They soon stopped asking for a magic word and I started saying please of my own accord, very proudly. To that end I would suggest never making a battle out of these lovely little pleasantries, just set an example and be a polite and respectful family, when you can!
Hopefully, by the time they are socializing with others at a childcare centre, the pleases and thank yous will flow and they can get down to the serious business of learning.