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Basic Manners... And Why They're Important
3 basic tips to encourage manners with your child.


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When kids don't have proper manners, the parents need to look in the mirror.


It is becoming increasingly obvious that manners and responsibility are not what is being taught, let alone enforced.”
Talking about manners seems sort of redundant and well, obvious. But it’s not as obvious as one would think. I work in an elementary school and I am surprised, almost daily, at the lack of manners.

Many kids do not reciprocate when they are greeted with "good morning!" or "hello." If they even look at you, they don’t miss a beat and continue on their way. I, myself, stop them and remind them that when someone greets you, the polite thing to do is respond back. But this gets me thinking. Why do they think it is okay to just ignore someone that is speaking to them? When I was young (a long while ago), it would never have occurred to me to ignore someone who was speaking to me. Especially an adult. Even if I didn’t like the person, ignoring them was not an option.

This may sound dramatic, but I believe this is becoming an epidemic. Working in the school system you experience parent interactions frequently, whether it be notes from parents, e-mails, phone calls, or face to face interactions. It is becoming increasingly obvious that manners and responsibility are not what is being taught, let alone enforced. Many kids today feel entitled. They do not take ownership because they are not asked or required to at home. This accountability starts with the basics: manners.

The Basics

This starts when your child first learns to talk. When they want something, you model “please” and have your child repeat after you. When they get it, you model by saying “thank you” and having them repeat it. That’s it. The catch it you just do it consistently, every day. As they grow, it becomes automatic. Every once in a while they may need a reminder, but for the most part, the pleases and thank you[s] are automatic.

Being Polite

Once the basics are down, you build on that. Now you start teaching your child about sharing and taking turns. You can do this having your child socialize with other kids whether it be at a babysitters or daycare or at mommy and me classes. You can model this for your child when they are playing and they will catch on. Then you just keep it part of the conversation when you ask about their day and whom they played with. At this time, you can also start requiring that your child say hello when someone greets them. I make my kids say hello to everyone when we go to friends’ or relatives’ houses. I also make them say goodbye when it is time to go.

Building on the Foundation

Once the foundation of basic manners and being polite has been set, you can build on it, like a scaffold.

* Write "thank you" notes.
* Make phone calls to specifically thank the person who gave or sent a gift.
* Clearing their plate after dinner.
* Encouraging sportsmanship.
* Encouraging rule following.
* Respecting others things (like their siblings’ headphones or clothes).
* Helping older people when they see they need it
* Opening and holding doors
* Volunteering

If you consistently encourage these things as a parent, they will become automatic in your child. The significance of manners, and learning to be polite and respectful is the foundation of being a morally responsible human being. It starts with "please" and "thank you" as a little child to respecting and listening to authority and helping others as a teenager.

Meghan Phillips, L-MSW is a school social worker in an elementary school where she works with kids and their parents. Meghan is writing a book about how parents can make small shifts in parenting that will help children to become in-tune with their authentic selves and live in alignment with their true purpose and desires. Meghan lives on Eastern Long Island, NY with her husband and two children. For more visit, www.meghansphillips.com.


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