Teaching Etiquette to Little Ones

While waiting in line at the market last week, I noticed two very different scenes unfolding: Subject A: a little boy, quietly sitting in the shopping cart nibbling on a snack; Subject B: Two children of the same age running circles around their cart, shouting at the top of their tiny lungs. Of course kids will be kids, however this encounter made me think about teaching etiquette to little ones – when do you start? What is the best method? As a soon to be new mom, this topic is near and dear to my heart and one I plan to become an expert on ASAP! And so, as a follow up to my very first blog post, I called on the help of Tricia Starkenburg, family friend and the mother of two kiddos with the most gorgeous manners to shed some light on teaching etiquette to children. Here are her tips – enjoy!
Start Early 
Make manners a part of family life from the beginning, and always have the kids say please and thank you. To help kids get in the habit of using please and thank you, remind them to say thank you to a coach for practice, friend’s parents for a play-date, or you or your spouse for cooking dinner. Eventually, all the reminding really does sink in!Rhyme Time
To help kids remember proper table manners, use fun little reminder phrases, such as:
“Mable, Mable” which means “Mable, Mable if you’re able, please get your elbows off the table.”
“Autumn, Autumn,” which means, “Autumn, Autumn, please sit on your bottom.”
“Pete, Pete,” which means “Pete, Pete, please watch your feet.”

Thank You Notes
Stress the importance of writing a thank you note and remind children how thoughtful and nice so-and-so was for thinking of them, and that its the kind thing to do, and the right thing to do. Two tips to make note writing fun: 1. Keep flat personalized note cards with their names readily available.  2. Encourage kids to make their own cards (unless of course they have to write a large amount of notes, in which case option 1 is best). Also, if they are too young to write, you can write the card for them and have them scribble their name.

Manner Mistakes 
We all make manner mistakes – that’s life! The key is to remember that having good manners is not a way to make you feel better about yourself, but a way to make someone else feel good and appreciated.  It’s a way of being kind. When kids make a manners mistake at home, remind them so they will know for next time. When they make a mistake out of the  home, talk to them afterwards when you are alone, and discuss what happened so you can turn it into a teachable moment.

Praise kids’ good behavior, such as “Thank you guys for being so great at the restaurant tonight.  You know what this means?  It means we’ll take you out to a nice restaurant again.”  Nothing works better than positive reinforcement!

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