Teaching Toddlers Manners

Teaching Toddlers Manners

I spend a good part of each day thinking about how to raise the little people in my life.  I want them to be good citizens.  I want them to treat others with respect, to be kind to others, to have empathy, and on and on the list goes.  I know that NOW is the time to teach them or to train them, if you will.  Now.  Not tomorrow or next year.  Day in and day out they are picking up on the things I say and do and are adding that to their repertoire.  They may carry some of those things with them the rest of their lives.  Oh, how I long for those to be good things!

I am the farthest thing from being the end all, be all parent.  I don’t have it all together and I don’t want to pretend to.  I’m not an extraordinary parent who knows all the right things to say at the right time but I am parent who cares.  Cares immensely.  Here is a list of things that I’m currently trying to teach my three year old toddler.

What I’m Trying to Teach:

  1. To say “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “God bless you,” and other niceties.  So far she’s doing pretty good at all of these except for when someone compliments her dress or hair and then she’ll just say “I know.”  Sometimes she’ll correct herself though so I know she’s making progress. : )
  2. To speak politely.  Example: “Mommy, may I have more water please?” instead of “I want more water.”
  3. To have basic table manners.  Chewing with her mouth closed, not playing with her food, using a napkin, etc.
  4. To “play nice” with others.  Learning to take turns and put others before herself.  Adults still have trouble with this, don’t we?
  5. To not interrupt an adult when they are talking.  She has a ways to go on this one.  A friend of mine has her daughter touch her arm to let her know that she wants to talk to her and will keep her hand there until her mom is finished talking with a friend and turns to talk to her.  I think this is a great idea!  I’m excited to try and put it into practice with my kids.
  6. To make eye contact when talking and to practice good listening skills.  Good listening skills are critical for learning and social interaction.
  7. To say “excuse me” when she needs to get past someone.
  8. To say “I’m sorry” AND mean it.  Not only “I’m sorry” but also “Will you forgive me?”
  9. To say “Hello” and “Goodbye” at appropriate times.
  10. To try and cheer someone up when they are sad.  A hug and a kiss is sometimes all it takes at this age. She does this one wonderfully…too much so sometimes.  She knows that it makes Daddy sad when she does something she’s not supposed to do and she’ll try to kiss her way around a punishment.  She thinks that her kisses will make Daddy happy and he’ll forget about her punishment. I gotta give her credit for trying!
  11. To address adults as “sir” and “ma’am.”  I’d like to be totally old school and have my kids address adults as Mr.Milton instead of Joseph or Mr.Joseph but that’s proving challenging since that’s not what my daughter watches us say.  Which is just another reminder to me that manners are caught rather than taught.
  12. To wait till everyone is served before eating and to ask “may I be excused” after they’re finished eating.  We still make our daughter sit with us until we’re finished so we have one less toy mess to clean up after we clean up dinner.
  13. To clean up after herself.  Toys, dirty clothes, tissues, books, etc.  Everything has a place and if they pulled it out I want (my enormous goal!) is for them to put it back.
  14. To cover her face when they cough or sneeze.

How I’m Trying to Teach Them:

Learning manners

1.)  Kids emulate what they see.  I want to do my best to allow them to see good manners as often as possible.

Don't Allow Your Mood to Dictate Your Manners

I want to practice good manners even when, no, especially when I don’t feel like it.  Don’t allow your mood to dictate your manners.

2.) Kindly remind them of what they need to be doing and why before hand.  I’m trying to remind my daughter what the Bible says about kindness, obedience, etc.  She has memorized verses about kindness but going over them in the car as we’re on the way to a friend’s house for a play date will help remind her to be kind.  Will it always work?  Certainly not but I’ve found it to help.

3.)  Kindly correct wrong behavior.  Sometimes asking what’s the correct way to chew will do wonders for my daughter’s table manners.  A soft tone and a hand on the shoulder doesn’t hurt in these circumstances.

4.)  I want my kids to understand what they’re feeling and be able to talk about it.  Closely related to that, I want them to observe how others are feeling.  If my daughter sees a friend fall down I want her to go over and ask her if she’s alright.  I feel that raising and developing a sensitive child who cares about others will do more good than a hundred etiquette classes.  Manners and caring about others is far more important than etiquette…in my book anyway.

5.)  I try to acknowledge my child in all surroundings.  When I’m with my friends, when we’re in a social gathering with many adults, at church, anywhere!  I want my daughter, and one day my son, to know that I’m still there for them and that they are part of the action.  I’ll stay physically close to them and occasionally make eye contact and smile.

6.)  I try to make eye contact with my daughter when she’s talking to me.  As a multi-tasking mom it’s not always easy but I want to make sure she knows that she is important to me…even when she’s just rambling on about a dream her stuffed animal had.  If it’s important to her, I want her to know that I’m listening.  I also want that same respect back.  Sometimes I’ll say, “I can’t hear you if you’re not looking at me.”  That’s not true and probably confuses the dear child but she’ll look at me and continue with her request.  {I also do the same thing with a whiny request.  I hate whining.}

7.)  Praise good manners!  I won’t always give in to a request but if it comes from a polite smiling child I’m a whole lot more likely to.  Even if I don’t give in it’s a great time for me to acknowledge their good manners.

I’m sure I’ve left off a dozen or so manners I would like to include on my list and one or two ways I’m trying to teach manners but  I think this is a good list to start with.  What are the manners you’re trying to teach your children or what ways have you found to be successful in teaching them?  I’d love to hear your ideas!