Depending on their age, you can work on different manners with your kids by acting out the situations in which they would use them in an age-appropriate way. It's really fun, and by playing out the situations instead of verbally telling kids what to do, the lessons will resonate more with them.
My kids now often say, "Let's play the manners game!"
Recently, while we were riding in the car, I showed my 4- and 6-year-olds how interrupting someone is bad manners. I pretended to be the child while they had a conversation. As they were talking, I blurted out, "Mommy, mommy, mommy!" They understood right away how that sounds from my point of view.
We talked about two ways to politely get someone's attention by acting out the scenarios. I acted first and then they took a turn.
- Wait until there is a break in the conversation and then ask your question (unless it's an emergency).
- Politely say, "Excuse me," and then ask the question.
My parents instilled in their four daughters the importance of giving a proper handshake. The lesson stayed with me as one of the more important first impression social lessons. I am now passing this lesson along to our 8- and 10-year-old sons. They are getting to the age where it's nice to greet a male adult with a handshake. For a female adult, we are telling our sons to offer their hand if the woman offers hers first.
For this scenario, my husband and I pretend like we are greeting them as another adult (not just Mom or Dad).
- Say, "Hello," and outstretch your hand to them one at a time and look down shyly, not making eye contact. I barely grip their hands, maybe even just touching a few of their fingers or giving a loose squeeze instead of putting my hand fully into their hands. We discuss the phrases "dead fish" and "wet noodle" - the kind of handshake I've given them, which are no-no.
- For the proper handshake, say, "Hello," while looking into their eyes and smiling. Offer a firm handshake, not too hard and not too soft. At this age, they especially like to practice extra firm handshakes - we stress that's as bad as a dead fish handshake.
- We talk about the difference between the two. Which one is friendlier? Why?
Practice this with them every week or so until they have it.Holding the Door Open for Others
Children should be taught to open the door for others when they are about 6 years old, or strong enough to do so. I particularly like to see young boys doing this, but all kids should be taught to leave the door open for others.
Last week, I took my 8- and 10-year-old boys to a store. There were two elderly women coming from behind us toward the store entrance too. I gave a quick, hushed reminder of "Hold the door for the ladies, boys." They opened the door and stood back so the ladies could enter first.
The women oohed and aahed and thanked me once inside for teaching my kids good manners.
"It's an ongoing process," I told them, "But thank you for the nice compliment."
"Yes, it is ongoing," one of the ladies said. "I'm still teaching my kids and they're 50 and 52."
It won't happen overnight, but modeling polite manners while being consistent and kind with our reminders is key.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.