When our family celebrated Olivia’s 6th birthday, her grandparents had traveled approximately 400 miles across three states to celebrate the day. The day stands out because the gift of clothing was not well-received.
Once the wrapping paper was happily ripped away, the opened gift box was greeted by tears and a few honest statements that were best forgotten.
While preventing a melt-down is always better than cleaning up after one, no parent can prevent every conceivable drama. The basic premise behind good manners is that others’ needs are considered before our own.
After our somewhat disastrous family get-together, I realized too late that a 6-year-old should be pre-advised before any gift-giving session. A quick talk that we always say thank you for a gift–even if it’s one we would never pick out-would’ve been beneficial.
After all, the gift giver spent time and money picking out the gift.
Here’s a general list of helpful manners for the 10 and under set:
1. Nice words matter. “Please” and “thank you” aren’t complicated, but smooth the way for any person to ask nicely and consequently receive favors.
2. After you, please. Allowing others to get out the door or off the elevator before rushing forward is a helpful and safe habit.
3. Know when to interrupt. If you allow a child to interrupt indiscriminately, you may wait another 10 years before you have a complete thought again. Knowing that the house is on fire or a similar emergency is a good reason for a child to interrupt. When your child tries (and she will), put your hand on her arm to let her know you’re not ignoring her. Finish what you were saying – and then turn to your child, “Thank you for waiting so nicely, dear. What do you need?”
4. Excuse me, please. When there’s an emergency and a child needs to interrupt, this is a great phrase. Also works nicely when a child bumps into someone or in crowded spots when he needs to pass by.
5. Out of sight. Teeth picking, nose picking, scratching – may all be necessary, but the rest of us shouldn’t have to watch.
6. A little help, please. A child can open doors for people. As she goes through a door, she can hold it for the next person. And saying thank you when someone holds a door open for your child quickly becomes a natural skill.
7. Gracious guest. At a party or even for play dates, there’s a grown up in charge who’s worked hard to make it pleasant. Teach your child to say “Thank you for having me” to that kind person.
8. Self-cleaning guest. A guest who cleans up after himself is welcome in any home or situation.
9. Mute negative opinions. Your mother probably said it this way: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Good rule to be used for all of us when describing Aunt Bessie’s carrot salad or Uncle Fred’s new hair style.
10. Social graces 101: Encourage your child to speak politely to your friends. She should be able to respond to “how are you” and also ask the same question of the adult. Another valuable social skill is to say “thank you” to an adult’s compliment.
Do you have a success story – a great way that encouraged your child’s best manners? Or do you have a story when the best laid plans didn’t quite deliver? Kayla and I would love to hear from you.
If you have boys, this book is a great dinner companion. Read a chapter each night at your dinner table and at least they’ll know what to do…”Stand Up, Shake Hands, and Say “How Do You Do”: What Boys Need to Know about Today’s Manners“.
Image courtesy of luxemartin and Flick.