Inculcating good manners in your child now can help them lead a more fulfilling life later.
By Judith Xavier
When we consider our children’s holistic development, the focus usually ends up on the academics, or enrichment programmes to broaden their horizons and teach them new skills. However, there is a skillset often insufficiently honed – having good manners. Proper etiquette and manners are not merely surface-level niceties. In fact, these reflect deeper values of respect and even empathy. Here are some key life skills to impart to your child, and suggestions on how to do it effectively.
Being friendly and gracious
Have you ever gone for a wedding dinner and found yourself at a table full of strangers, then awkwardly realised that no one wanted to make eye contact nor conversation? While that might seem like rude behaviour from an adult, the roots of it often stem from childhood.
Encourage your child to be friendly and strike up conversations with others at family gatherings, or when they meet new kids at the playground. As with any positive trait, being friendly and gracious takes a lot of practice, and the earlier parents begin, the better. Even if your little one is very shy and would rather hide behind you, reassure them that you will not be far away.
Showing respect for elders
There is value in every individual and they deserve to be respected. Helping children understand why their elders deserve respect is usually the first step in getting them to accord it to others.
Start with basic steps, such as making it a point to greet elders when they meet. These elders could be their grandparents, your friends or colleagues. Once your child is comfortable being around the elder person, encourage them to help the elder out with simple tasks, or even listen as they talk about their life experiences – this leads to long-term development in your child’s patience and thoughtfulness.
We’ve all come across personalities who are positive and great listeners, speaking insightful and encouraging words to those around them, making them a joy to be around! These acts of taking an interest in others, and proactively being supportive and kind, are a key element of having good manners.
Indeed, one of the best ways to instil this value is to model it for your children. Be an encourager yourself, and watch as they reflect the same positive behaviour in their actions.
Inculcating good manners takes time and intentional effort. There is a simple 3-step process that you might want to use.
Step 1: Set expectations
Find some quiet, uninterrupted time where you have your child’s full attention, and then explain the behaviour that you expect from them in a given situation. For example, if you want to reinforce the custom of giving respect to elders, explain to your little one why and how they have to greet their elders when visiting any home, or at a gathering. Remind them of the expected behaviour, prior to going out.
Step 2: Hold a debrief
Take a few minutes after each family outing or event to debrief your children privately. Share with them specific things they did right, and where they can improve. This is not meant to be a session to scold the child, but to reinforce the etiquette standards you have set as parents. While this may seem tedious initially, it will soon become a seamless part of your outing routine, and your children will also come to expect the feedback and act on it.
Step 3: Praise often
Having good manners comes more easily to some children than others. Praise and affirm your child when they show good etiquette, especially if they struggle to do so. This will encourage and motivate them to do it more consistently.
Your child might be introverted, and talking to new kids or greeting a room full of people might be as appealing as pulling teeth, but gently encourage and guide them to keep trying. Your consistence is crucial too. In the long run, minding their Ps and Qs will help your child to have deeper and more enduring relationships with others, which will stand the test of time.
Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling.