Let’s Delve into the World of Bad Manners
There are little eyes upon you
And they’re watching night and day
There are little ears that quickly
Take in every word you say;
There are little hands all eager
To do anything you do;
And a little boy who’s dreaming
Of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol,
You’re the wisest of the wise.
In his little mind about you
No suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devoutly,
Holds all that you say and do;
He will say and do in your way
When he’s a grown-up like you.
This poem gives you a glimpse into the life of being a parent. Your child watches everything that you do and say. Even when you say the opposite of what you do. They learn from your behavior, so using manners is the best way to teach your child manners.
When people say to you “You have a very well mannered child”, you light up. This is especially true if the compliment comes from a stranger in passing. When your child uses manners in public, they are showing respect and kindness toward others. That really is the essence of good manners, says Emily Post, the etiquette guru- “a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.”
The manner in which you teach manners begins when your child is a baby. According to Dr. Sears, your baby can sense sensitivity and when you are sensitive to his needs and to others around him, he will grow into a respectful child. A respectful child naturally has good manners because he is aware of people other than himself. He understands that his actions and mannerisms affect other people, so he makes the choice not to offend others for the sake of himself. Parents.com says this awareness starts to show itself around 18 months old.
This is the same time that your child is practicing new words so between 1 ½ and 2 years old is a great time to teach your child the words “please” and “thank you”. Those two words are at the heart of good manners and a truthful thank you goes a long way toward showing respect for other people. Hopefully, your child has heard these two words frequently and begins to understand that “please” is used when he wants something and “thank you” is said to end a discussion, or after he receives the thing he wants.
The words you use as you interact with people in the presence of your child also influence his mannerisms. The mannerism definition is something that is a habit. These can be positive habits such as manners or annoying habits such as knuckle-cracking. You want manners to become a habit for your child and the more he sees you displaying them, the more likely he is to develop these positive habits. So, when you are at a store or restaurant for example, greet people with a “hello” or “how are you?” or other phrase to show genuine interest in the person. Your child is then more apt to be comfortable talking with others in all types of social situations.
As your child grows into a teenager, you can expect more examples of manners. You wouldn’t expect your three-year-old to put his dishes in the dishwasher, but your thirteen-year-old can. It is so important to teach these small examples of helpfulness for when your child goes over to a friend’s house. Asking to put a dish in the dishwasher will impress a friend’s parents and your child is likely to be invited again.
If you need to correct your child, a gentle reminder is acceptable for younger children. You can remind them to say “please” but do not use it as a tool for them to get what they want or remind them to say “the magic word”, then it becomes a trick instead of a respectful habit.
Teenagers who need reminding should be spoken to in a calm, courteous way. Do not yell or criticize them in front of other people-that is not good manners. Dr. Sears recommends placing your hand on their shoulder, talking softly and mild mannered, and explaining what behavior is expected as you look into their eyes. This behavior shows the teen that he is valued and respected and he is more inclined to listen to you instead of rolling his eyes and responding with bad manners.
Many get-togethers revolve around meals and meals are a wonderful time to show manners and respect for those around you. From the time your child is pushed up to the table in the high-chair, use the words “please” and “thank you”. Ask your spouse to “please pass the salt” and respond with a “thank you” when he does. The key here is to be consistent. If you use manners, make sure your spouse does too so your child grows up seeing the same behavior from both of you. That way, he knows what is expected of him.
Emily Post has a list of the top 10 table manners. You can teach your children these by showing good examples of them and gently correcting them if they stray. Table manners to concentrate on are:
- Chewing with your mouth closed
- No blowing your nose, slurping or other bodily function noises at the table. Excuse yourself to another room if necessary.
- Use utensils carefully and to eat one piece of food at a time, not like a shovel.
- Cut one piece of food at a time.
- Sit up straight without elbows on the table.
- Drink only when you are finished chewing.
- Do not clean your teeth at the table.
- Use your napkin. Teach children how to place it in their lap.
- Ask for things to be passed to you when they are out of your reach.
- Asked to be excused from the table at the end of the meal.
These manners should not just be used when you have guests or when you eat out. Practicing these table manners at home makes them a habit and your child will not have to think about the proper way to behave at a restaurant or at someone else’s home. This may seem like a lot of work at times, but the payoff is large. Good manners may make the difference between your adult son’s promotion or his being looked over for a promotion.
Manners at mealtime are always going to be used whether your teenager is on a date, meeting the parents, having dinner with a potential employer or dining with grandma. All of these are important and good table manners will leave a good impression.
Mind Your Manners
Mind your own manners and your child will mind theirs. If you were not raised in a home that used manners, this may be a challenging task for you, but good manners will become a habit, just like they do for your child. Soon, you find yourself expecting good manners in those around you, but even if you do not receive them back, remain a good example.
This translates into driving as well. A good-mannered driver does not cut people off, give crude gestures to other drives, or drive too close to someone else. Your child is also watching this and he will learn to be a respectful driver with good manners when he see the way you treat other people.
Show your child that all people deserve your respect by using manners at all times, even when you are on the phone. Be polite, use greetings and say people’s names. Everyone likes the sound of their own name and you can teach your child another important mannerism of learning people’s names and then saying them.
Parents have many responsibilities when raising children and teenagers. Manners are just one area of concern, but the payoffs of having a well-mannered child and especially a well-mannered teenagers are well worth the time and effort you put into it. Plus, your marriage may improve and your other relationships with friends, co-workers and family members will benefit too. You often get back what you give out so expect to be treated with respect and good manners. Imagine the smile on your face the first day you hear “please” and “thank you” coming out of your child’s mouth. Priceless.