Teaching good manners to our children is not optional. Our manners are less rigid than those of our grandparents, but children still need to learn how to handle themselves politely in a number of situations.
Basic good manners are not really difficult for children to master but they need to be modeled and taught. They will not magically emerge as our children mature.
Children learn by watching. If you want your children to say Please and Thank You, then you need to say it to them. How you relate to them, to your partner or family members and to your friends show them what good manners look like.
You also need to expect that they will demonstrate good manners at all times. If you let them slack off at home you can’t expect them to suddenly turn into polite little people when they leave the house.
Young children can learn to say Please and Thank You. The trick is to teach them, model the behaviour, and then expect it. Instead of constantly reminding them, simply don’t hear a request until they say the magic word.
Toddlers rarely have good table manners. But you can make a start, and by the time they are preschoolers you can expect a level of civility that grows as they age.
By the age of six a child should be expected to respond to simple questions from a visitor and make eye contact. An eight year old can shake hands and engage in a short conversation while a teenager should be expected to engage in social conversation for a period of time.
A challenge for parents and children occurs when the child wants your attention while you are talking to another adult. Teach them to approach quietly and wait. You should respond as quickly as possible. Whispering is rude. Teach your children to either say what they need to say out loud or ask to speak to you privately.
The trick to teaching manners is in teaching, modeling and having expectations. Polite children can handle social situations and meet new people comfortably. They will benefit greatly from this skill as they mature.