Instilling Manners in Toddlers

Posted by Mpho Ashworth on July 23, 2015

Instilling manners in children takes time and effort. It is however, highly rewarding, as teaching children manners while they are very young ensures that they develop good interpersonal skills, helping them interact positively with their peers and adults over the years. This leads to the healthy development of social skills, an understanding of societal norms and expectations, great communication skills and the ability to exercise patience and self-control.

One of the best ways to teach children of any age manners is by leading by example. To make your life as well as theirs easier as they get older, it’s important to start very early. This is especially important in the modern culture of gadgets, including smart phones. One other thing to always bear in mind is that children learn a lot more than we realize from watching their parents and older people around them interact. Whatever behavior you want them to display, it is your role as the adult to demonstrate it in the way you relate to your spouse as well as other family members.

How to teach toddlers manners

Start with the basics. As soon as your toddler starts to talk, some of the first words you should encourage them to get in the habit of saying are “please’ and “thank you.” It may take a while for them to get it right, but once they do, it’s very rewarding and will no doubt make you a very proud parent!

To make it easier and more fun for them, you could even practice with their favourite toys and play games, making the main focus of the exercise practicing saying please and thank you.

Be persistent, patient and consistent. Once you introduce manners to your toddler, carry on with it and ensure that everyone in the family does the same. Take time every day to go over the new words and have them practice until they get it right. It takes a long time or may even seem like a lot of work, but the long term results will pay dividends long after they have flown the nest. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same applies to teaching young children manners. It’s vital to bear in mind that it can take some children years to finally feel comfortable with their manners.

Teach them not to comment on how people look in public, to stare or point at people who may look different to them, such as people of a different race or those with disabilities. If they see something of particular interest to them, rather than point and ask loudly, encourage them to tell you quietly and remind you to discuss it later instead. Explain to them that it’s not very nice or polite to openly talk about other people in public.

Eat together at the dining table. This is one of the very best platforms through which your toddler will learn good table manners and manners in general very early on in life. Set the table complete with utensils and serviettes, rather than eating in front of the TV. They will initially do their own thing and be messy with their eating; but will ultimately learn to use good etiquette such as using utensils properly, elbows off the table, not eating with their mouth open and not talking with food in their mouth.

Read your toddler stories that teach good manners. If they enjoy a story, they’re likely to want to emulate the good behavior demonstrated by their favorite characters in the story. Recalling their favorite stories will inspire them to want to model their behavior on their heroes from these stories, and also spur them on to cultivate their desire to practice good manners and kindness towards others.

Praise good behavior. When your toddler does something generous or thoughtful around other children, let them know you’re proud of them. Children at this age are still trying to understand the importance of sharing, so by reinforcing it with praise is very good.

Last but not least; remember it’s never too early to teach your child good manners. Bear in mind that as hard as it may be to teach them as toddlers, you’re in for another round of hard work when they become teenagers. Laying the foundation now means that you’ve won half the battle by the time they become teenagers.