TEACHING Manners to Children

We were out once and my son said about a lady, “That lady is fat!” Thankfully, the lady was out of earshot. Although he did not mean anything malicious by it, I decided it was high time I learned a little bit more about Grace, Courtesy, Etiquette, and so on. I picked up this book Teaching Grace and Courtesy the Montessori Way.

This book really surprised me about what type of behaviors are part of “etiquette.” It’s things that I clearly could see benefit in, not just to be polite and proper, but because it would make some social situations go more smoothly. The author is British and certainly I could see how social situations operate just a bit differently in the UK than they do in the US. Some things I found good, and others bad.

Something that would help I think: When you are hosting a party, when a new guest arrives, it is proper to introduce the guest to 3 or 4 people and to give a fact about the guest to the other guests to get the conversation flowing. I have never been privileged to have someone do this for me as a guest at a party. It’s always just “Come on in. The drinks are in the cooler.” Then, at many parties, despite a few attempts at conversation, I often eat birthday cake on the floor in a corner, talking with the people I came with and maybe some grandmas.


Anyway, back to children. I got a few things out of this book. Here they are:

The most important thing I got was that the author reminded me that everything needs taught, even social skills and etiquette. I get caught up with life sometimes and I forget this. I try to do one lesson a day with my kids. In addition to lessons on math, art, and so on, I also will now give formal lessons on politeness. The author did this. She gave children in a daycare formal lessons on saying please, thank you, how to pass dishes at meal time, and such. Then she observed them afterwards to see if they started to be more polite, spontaneously, on their own. The children showed marked improvement.

One of the first lessons I did with my son was how to quietly close a door. I also modeled for him, using some figurines, what happens if he bursts threw a door without considering that someone might be behind it. This is actually the heart and soul of positive discipline: modeling, explaining, showing, teaching your children proper behavior–not yelling or punishing. These lessons go a long way towards discipline and general peace in your house.

The author said that the hardest lesson for children to learn is introducing people. I remember in second grade my mother and father telling me I was going to introduce them to my teacher. I was struck with fear. I am pretty sure I hid behind my mother’s leg when the time came. I know I didn’t do it–and that I never gained confidence in it or learned how to do it any time soon after that. This is something that takes time and practice and should not be sprung on a child. It is also not polite to correct a child in front of strangers. Do it in private. I started practicing with my child by using pictures in books and on board games. As we pass by her on Disney World Candy Land, “Hi Cinderally. I am Amber. It’s nice to meet you.” Or “Hi Belle, I see you have a book. I like to read too.” Or “Sorry Cheshire Cat, no time to talk. Hope to talk to you again soon!”

I also worked on accepting a compliment by simply saying “Thank you.” It’s a good skill, to just say thank you, not to humble yourself and discredit what the person said. In the past, my son, 4, argued with people who gave him compliments, ha.



Probably the most important technique to remember is that of demonstrating the desired activity to the child. Don’t assume that a child knows how to greet someone, how to answer a phone, or even how to flush a toilet after using it if he or she has never been shown the proper procedure.



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