Parenting approaches evolve over time. In the old days, parents were stricter and had no qualms using physical punishments if their children were rude.
Today’s parents are usually more lax in their approaches, and their children may become spoilt and lack manners. This does not mean that parents have to be harsh on their children.
However, good manners are not innate. Parents need to teach and demonstrate manners to their children to help them develop social skills and get along with others.
From 18 months, your child starts to be aware of other people’s feelings. By then, you can gradually teach manners that are appropriate for his age and developmental phase. Use some of these tips:
Teach your child to say “Please” and “Thank you” when asking and receiving favours, and other phrases like “Excuse me” and “May I?” Use these words consistently in your conversations and praise him when he uses them.
He may not fully grasp their meanings yet, but he will learn that people are happy when he uses these words.
Show your child how to greet people properly in your culture. For example, teach him to shake or salam people’s hands when greeting.
Face people directly and speak gently when conversing. Explain why foul language is bad and should never be used. Teach him when it is proper to listen or speak in a conversation through story-telling and role-playing.
Make it a habit for your child to wash his hands before meals. Teach him to close his mouth when chewing food and to not speak with a mouth full. Take small bites and eat slowly. Playing with and spitting out food is a no-no.
When he is old enough, tell him to wait for others before eating. Never reach over to grab something, but ask others to pass it. Enforce these manners at all meal times but more importantly, remember to practise them yourself!
Teach your child to share his cookies and take turns playing toys with his friends or siblings. Name-calling should be reprimanded. Instil good sportsmanship in your child: be humble when winning and be supportive of others when losing.
Adults must not provoke children by teasing, ridiculing, belittling or comparing them with other children.
Adults are role-models in this. Always greet and acknowledge the presence of elders such as parents, family, teachers, and outsiders. Address them appropriately using “Mr”, ”Ms”, “Uncle”, “Auntie” or other titles.
However, children may be wary of new people. Adults must first greet a child with love and respect so that he will feel safe and comfortable to address them.
When parents give priorities to the elders, for example, when serving food or by giving up their seats, children will also learn to do it.
It may seem overwhelming to teach manners to your child. These suggestions can help you:
Parents have a huge influence on their child’s behaviour. He learns by watching and imitating you, so always be polite and mind your behaviour and language.
For example, while driving him to school, avoid breaking traffic rules and cursing at bad traffic. They watch how you speak and react to other people. If adults cannot say sorry when they did something wrong, do not expect children to say it willingly.
Moral values teach us to do the right things. Socio-emotional skills teach us to do it willingly.
Take time to talk and ask about his day, for example during dinner. Keep family time and tone of voice pleasant. Let this be a good opportunity for him to practise his conversational manners and develop his communication skills.
Empathy is about putting yourself in the shoes of others. Tell him the golden rule – treat others as how you want to be treated. As he learns to empathise, he will learn to think beyond his own needs and understand the purpose of being well-mannered.
Children are very impressionable and tend to imitate what they see on TV or online. Monitor what shows or games he is watching or playing, and determine if they are appropriate. Limit his screen time according to his age.
Teaching manners to your child from young will help him to get along well with others.
Start by being polite, sensitive and respectful of other people’s feelings. You must let your child know what you want and do not want. When he behaves appropriately, reinforce it with praises, hugs, smiles, etc.
Catch him doing the right thing instead of doing the wrong thing. Parents must first be what they want their children to be.
Remember: manners maketh man.Eveleen Ling is the chairman of Malaysian Association of Kindergartens (PTM). This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners. For further information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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