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What is the best way for a parent to respond when a child does not show good manners?
Working on the skills should not happen in the heat of the moment. Your child is not going to absorb it. It needs to happen at a much more neutral time, so wait until you are in the comfort of your own home.
Before you take your children into a social setting, take a moment for a quick review of what you expect from them: “Here’s what I’m hoping for from you: I’m looking for you to say ‘Hello, Mrs. Smith,’ use proper eye contact, smile, and maintain good body language.” You’ve already taught the lesson, this is just a refresher.
How early is too early, and how late is too late, to learn good manners?
Good manners start at birth. You, the parent, are modeling these skills. You have the greatest impact on your child. These are teachable skills, so if you haven’t been the perfect role model, there is still time. You can start teaching good manners as early as 2 years old—sharing, and saying “please” and “thank you.”
It’s never too late! As you grow older, manners remain an important social and emotional toolkit for life success.
What are your top three tips for showing good manners?
It’s pretty easy to stand out and be a well-mannered child these days. It boils down to three main things: eye contact, facial gestures, and body language. Throw in a handshake and you’ve just made a heck of a first impression. Life is a lot easier! In my classes, I show the students the difference: First, I walk in with my head down and don’t say a word, then ask them how they think I feel. “You’re angry!” they all say. Then I walk in with my head up and a big smile, and the kids all say “Now you’re happy! You’re nice!” But I didn’t say a word. I just changed three things: eye contact, a smile showing your teeth, and positive body language.
To what do you attribute today’s increased interest in etiquette schools?
We have become a much more casual society, there’s no question about that. Parents (and kids) don’t want frilly etiquette lessons in our very modern world—they don’t apply. If you stand at a chalkboard with your pearls teaching please and thank yous, no one is going to listen. However, there is definitely interest in social and communication skills. Most parents know that these skills are vital for life success.
What is the true message behind these classes?
The true message is respect for oneself and others. That’s one of the most valuable lessons every child needs to learn. In order to respect others, one needs to be respectful of himself or herself first and foremost!
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