Should my child need reminders about manners?

“Shake hands with Uncle Jack.”

“Remember to thank Mrs. McDonald for the ride.”

“Please hold the door.”

“Offer your friend a soda.”

Most parents don’t understand why their ten- to thirteen-year-old still needs to be told these simple things: “I’ve been teaching my son manners since he was two years old and he still don’t know how to act!”

The truth is, most kids these ages continue to need reminders. This is true in part because they tend to be self-absorbed and frequently moody. In addition, it’s hard for them to keep track of all the polite behavior they’re responsible for – how to greet guests, what to say to relatives, how to answer the phone, and how to treat friends and adults.

Kids also may be unsure about politeness because they receive conflicting messages. Parents and teachers stress manners, but they sometimes demand good behavior in unpleasant ways: “I’ve told you a hundred times not to start eating ‘til everyone’s served. What’s wrong with you?” A teacher admonished her students for interrupting: “I want you dumb kids to keep quiet.” Kids often imitate adults’ behavior.

Most children display their worst manners at home, where they want to relax without worrying about politeness. Parents often despair when they imagine how their child acts with other people. But even the most forgetful kids are better behaved when they’re away from home. With company, they become more careful about manners and usually remember to say “please” and “thank you” and generally to speak more politely.

One twelve-year-old demonstrated how she had folded her towel when she slept at a friend’s house. Her mother was delighted because at home the girl usually dropped her towels on the floor. Another parent, who was upset by her son’s lack of table manners, was relieved when his dinner with relatives went well.

When you correct your child’s manners, try not to be too judgmental. It’s better to say, “Next time please sound friendlier when you answer the phone,” than to say, “You’re so rude on the phone!” His forgetfulness is normal and condemning him may only harm his self-esteem, since he still depends heavily on your good opinion.

If you anticipate a problem, prepare him. Tell him firmly and consistently how you expect him to act when his grandparents visit, when he goes off in the carpool, when an important call comes, or when he sleeps at a friend’s house.

The most important way to reinforce manners is to model polite behavior for him. If you treat him and others with respect, he’ll eventually take on your attitude as his own.

Picture Credit : Google