Mum…Ball..Car…No…I have known babies speaking these as their first words, mostly. When we catch up with friends or family and I am asked what was the first word K & A said, I find it amusing to answer. The first words that A said was “Thank you”- of course it was said in her own baby-like tone and sounded more like “Tan Tu” .
But that gets me thinking at times- are we teaching those magic words to our kids now? Do the courtesy words like “Please” and “Sorry” still hold any importance?
I am sure you would agree with me here : picture this : in a park or at a fun zone in a fancy mall , you would see kids running or rather jostling around hastingly, totally unaware of pushing, shoving and at times squeezing others just to grab a spot for car racing or take a lead in queue for getting onto the ride. It would be very easy to label them as spoilt, careless, irresponsible and mannerless. But hold your thought there , re-wind and re-think…
We the Parents
Children learn first from home and then from any other institution. They are like a well, whatever you speak in whichever tone, your voice would echo back through your kids the same way.
From the ages 2 to 4, children will mirror what the adults around them are saying. It is imperative to lead as an example for them. If we are argumentative, discourteous and impolite, there’s no way we can expect our children to be well mannered.
One fun way of doing so is by using Pretend-Play activity. For example, enact how you speak to somebody over phone using phrases like “How are you”, “Nice to talk to you”, “Thank you”, “Goodbye” etc. Or enact a tea party where one parent becomes a guest and the other plays the role of self.
Dramatising shows kids what is expected as a norm and helps them retain what they see.
Here are some ways you can encourage a child to be gracious and courteous:
Introduce polite words from the beginning
Children as young as 10 months old start repeating words in their own tone. Words like “please” and “thank you” should be used repeatedly as per situation in front of them. Though they wouldn’t understand the meaning of these words but the essence of “please” while asking for something or “thank you” after an interaction would certainly get registered in their minds.
You may take help of books for kids to make this a fun process!
Respect, sensitivity and empathy
Being courteous with your partner, caring towards elderly, sensitive towards domestic help and empathetic towards anyone needy – all these would eventually make good manners being very normal & logical for kids rather than something that they would have to learn. Be generous in using words like “thank you”, “welcome” , “sorry”.
Do it Yourself
Make a habit of getting kids clear their playroom, studyarea or bedroom themselves. Make the clearing process a fun activity. This helps the child get used to the concept that staying organised is a simple part of everyday life. Use toy storage baskets and bins to make it easy for kids to own up the space and act accordingly.
I say this in a sing-song tone to my kids ” Let’s put all the toys back in the box, back in the box” and there they are running around picking each block and packing away all the strewed toys.
When in Public
It is important to educate the concept of privacy, respect for property and idea of personal space to kids from early on. When visiting somebody, “thank you” and “please” should be used; kids should be refrained from barging into somebody else’s rooms or kitchen without taking permission.
It’s the inquisitive streak in kids that crosses the fine line of good and bad manners. Role of self-control is thus important. Figure out what attracts your child at others’ house, make a note of it and discuss what and what not to be done when at somebody else’s house.
Teach children to wait
Following a queue while waiting for a ride in the park ; waiting in the grocery line; sitting in the car seat while on a road journey- teach your child to be patient. The concept of patience and self-calm needs to be installed from the beginning.
I have seen most kids just don’t let their parents talk to anyone. They interrupt in the conversation and seek attention. It is important in situations like these that miracle words like “excuse me”, “please ” and “thank you” should be taught to children.
Looking for ways to keep the child engaged? Click here
Correct on the spot
Do not hesitate in correcting the child. That’s the best way of teaching. And it always helps if correction is done while “in action”. But be polite while correcting. Get close to the child, maintain an eye contact and be soft & gentle in your tone. The child should be assured that you are genuinely wanting to teach something good.
Somewhere in our fast paced busy lives we have forgotten the basics of courtesy while interacting with family members, neighbours, helpers , strangers and this gets spilled on to the next generation.
Let’s try and do our bit by inculcating courtesy, values and good manners in our children so that they grow up as responsible citizens of tomorrow.