By Jacqueline Mroz for Kidcomplishment
Whenever Erika Leavitt catches her daughters misbehaving or
forgetting to say please, she reminds them -- again and again and again. “I
don’t give them things unless they say please first,” says the Basalt, Colo., mother of
That’s exactly what parents need to do to teach their
children social skills, according to Lisa Finan a mother of two in Montclair,
N.J. and the owner of Courteous
Child, which offers social skills classes to children. “Kids need to be
constantly reminded to say please, thank you, and may I,” says Finan.
of the best times for children to practice good manners is during playdates,
when they can see the consequences of their behavior -- good and bad -- firsthand.
They learn that politeness is about showing respect for others, and that means all others, not just adults. And if they are held to the
same standards of behavior with their friends as they are with their families,
they learn that being polite is something we do everywhere, all the time. The
only hitch is that parents have to be there to keep reminding them.
“Parents have to buy into teaching their kids
good behavior; it’s not something you can tick off a list,” says Finan. “It has
to be a lifestyle.”
Model politeness to your child
good way to start is by being a role model. “When I’m out with my kids and I
see other moms I know with their children, I extend my hand and shake their
hands. Then I introduce my children to them; that teaches my kids to introduce
themselves when they meet people,” says Finan.
same holds true when children have a friend come over. As a parent, you should
welcome young visitors the same way you would an adult. Let your child see you
say hello and shake hands with the parent. Invite your guests into your home,
paying special attention to the visiting child: “We’re so happy you could come
over. Would you like to see our playroom?” By age 4 or 5, see if your child
wants to make the offer himself: “Would you like to invite your friend to see
Teaching children good social skills shows them how to get
through difficult situations, and, eventually, how to navigate the world,
according to Finan. This can be helpful when your child goes on a playdate at someone
else’s home, where he may have to learn how to follow different rules. “People
we’ve had playdates with have been pretty good about telling my kids, you can’t
do that, or please share,” says Leavitt. “I really don’t mind if other parents
do that. In fact, I think sometimes my kids will listen more to other parents.”
other people’s kids are rude
The issue of kids behaving badly can be especially perilous
when you’re dealing with other children misbehaving at your house. That, says
Finan, is when it’s important to set ground rules. And that can be helpful for
kids because it lets them know what kind of behavior is expected of them at
kids come to her house for playdates, Finan first tells them her expectations:
no running around the house, play happens only in the family room or outside, and
eating should only be done at the kitchen table. She also makes sure her
children’s friends help to clean up before they leave -- or they are not
invited back. And it usually works, she says.
Of course, it’s not easy to correct other children’s
behavior, or remind them to say please and thank you. But Finan says it’s
important for everyone to teach children the right way to behave: “When we were
kids, our neighbors didn’t have any problem reminding us to say please and
thank you. When people talk about, ?It takes a village,’ this is what it’s
about. If we all don’t do it, who will? No one was meant to raise children
TIP: Start a Politeness Patrol
Put your preschooler in charge of monitoring your manners. Have her remind you whenever you forget your pleases and thank-yous.
Jacqueline Mroz is a freelance journalist who has worked as an editor and children's book columnist for The Bergen Record and written for Parents magazine.
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