Basic manners may not seem to be such a big deal, because at the end of the day, they're just little children! However, one day, these children will grow up into adults, lacking basic manners. And getting adults to change can be extremely difficult, even embarrassing to a large extent.
"Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression." - Dr. Haim Ginott
The reason manners is given so much importance, is because it teaches kids to be mindful of those around them. It helps them shift their focus from their own wants and desires, to those around them. Manners in a way, helps children blossom into better adults.
Good manners cannot be inculcated overnight, but develops with time. It's a lifelong process beginning at infancy. From the simple manner of sharing toys, children learn to become caring husbands or wives. They also learn to become compassionate friends. Thus, basic manners is not something that pertains to the elite class, but is meant for all!
If your child wants something, he/she must ask by saying, "please may I have a glass of water". That's proper manners. Saying thank you when he receives it, is also essential. If your kid happened to bump into someone or spilled something, it's important to say "I'm so sorry". Again, kids shouting back "What?" is extremely disrespectful. They ought to say "pardon me" or "I'm sorry mom, what did you just say?". These phrases are not just fussy phrases, but help the child know it's important to treat those around him/her with respect.
Kids must know it's not right to comment on that aunt's flabby arms or that uncle's pot belly. They are also not to make fun of their peers. They must be taught that complexion, height, beauty, etc., is given by God, and must not be commented upon. This also includes calling names, or saying things like 'you're boring'. In fact, the age-old saying, 'if you have nothing nice to say, it's better you say nothing', is still applicable in today's times.
This may seem like such a trivial detail to adults, because it comes so naturally to us. But sometimes kids, preoccupied as they are, may not seem to pay attention to these details. It's certainly rude to not acknowledge the presence of a guest. Kids must be taught to greet even a stranger at home with a smile and a word of greeting. Shaking hands and making eye contact are also significant greeting etiquette. Ignoring somebody who has come home will certainly be considered impolite. Moreover, when the guests are leaving, the kids should smile and say goodbye. This is not to inculcate hypocritical behavior, but kids need to know every individual deserves basic respect and courtesy.
Before entering a room, please knock! Children don't exactly mean to invade anybody's privacy, however, they have to be taught to knock before entering a room. These basic manners have to begin right at home. This may sound trivial to some parents, but these manners will be noticed closely when your kids go for sleepovers. So please make sure that your kids knock!
It's rude to interrupt anybody who is talking, whether it's another kid or an adult. Kids must know that they can have their turn, once the other person finishes talking. Stopping another person when he's saying something or cutting him midway, is disrespectful. Also, paying full attention to what is being said and maintaining eye contact are important aspects that need to be paid attention to.
It's not appropriate for kids to come and whisper into mommy's ear when she's sitting with a couple of guests. It certainly is not good manners. Tell your kid that it's rude to do so, instead, he must speak up aloud. If it's something he/she can't say aloud, he/she should say, 'excuse me mom, can you come with me for a minute, it's important'.
Kids may forget to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough, so every time they cough or sneeze, make sure to check if they're covering their nose and/or mouth. Explain to them that it is important to cover their nose/mouth because if they don't, it would spread germs to all those who are around. Picking the nose in any place other than the bathroom, is also inappropriate.
Teach your kid that if he's eating something and there are people around him, he is to ask them if they'd like to have some. If it's a box of sweets, it's essential he first ask those around him to take a sweet, and only after that, should he have his sweets. Eating without offering others first is impolite. An extension of this is also sharing his toys with his friends. He shouldn't be saying "you can't have my toy" to a friend who has come over to play.
Phone etiquette is also very important, because some of these basic manners often go unnoticed. Explain to your child, that he should always introduce himself when he makes a phone call, and then go ahead with the conversation. This is among the few basic manners for kids to know, which helps them maintain proper telephone etiquette when they grown up.
Kids must be taught to stay away from the belongings of others, no matter how much their curiosity beckons them. Kids have to learn where to draw the line, right from childhood. What belongs to others is not to be handled. This pertains to even house visits. No touching showpieces or anything for that matter, unless it has been specifically given to you. Moreover, if toys have been given to play, no throwing a tantrum to take the toy home. All these are ill manners.
Taking a glass of water or some snacks to the bedroom is alright, but it's important to bring the empty plates and glasses back to the kitchen. If they have changed their clothes, they need to fold and keep the earlier set away. If they were playing with their toys, they need to put them back to where they belong. Children who learn to be organized, grow into responsible and well-mannered adults.
This is something every parent must ensure their kids follow. Gift etiquette is not just for adults, but plays a crucial role for kids as well, simply because they receive many gifts during their growing-up years. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and others bring them all sorts of presents, but they ought to understand all gifts are to be appreciated. It may not be what they wanted or liked, but they are to thank the person wholeheartedly, because the person took time to select and bring them a present. If it's a present they didn't really like, they can simply thank the person for being so thoughtful.
Table manners are extremely important, because families meet over meals, and that is when the final test of manners takes place. Here are some basic dos and dont's of table manners.
Dos of Table Manners
✔ Wash your hands before and after a meal.
✔ Use a fork while eating.
✔ Say 'excuse me' if you have to leave the dinner table.
✔ Take food portions that you can finish.
✔ Thank the person who prepared the meal.
Don'ts of Table Manners
✘ Chewing with your mouth open.
✘ Speaking with your mouth full.
✘ Playing with your food/cutlery.
✘ Expressing dislike about the food served.
✘ Slouching over the table while dining.
✘ Leaning over the table for a dish.
✘ Picking food out of your teeth at the dinner table.
While teaching basic dinner etiquette is important, it's also important for kids to understand that we are not asking them to be dishonest about their opinion. Thanking the person for a meal they didn't like is not right, but ask them to try to point out one aspect of the meal they liked. Or just thank for the efforts put in by the person.
Kids learn by watching their parents, so teach by example. You can also try playing games, by preparing hypothetical questions, and asking your kids how they would respond in those situations. For example, they went to the supermarket and couldn't find where the milk was. They find the supermarket attendant talking to another customer. What would they do? While reminding kids about certain manners, keep telling them why it is important to follow those manners. Logical reasoning helps dissolve resistance. Moreover, remember to appreciate their good manners every now and then. Kids need your affirmation.