Mind Your Manners

polite girl at dinner

Infants are adorable. Most are so polite. Often sitting like little pumpkins with toothless grins, it's hard to imagine a day when we will need to teach them manners. I remember being so proud when around 9 months my little girl would regularly say “please” using sign language. I beamed.

Fast forward to toddlerhood. Help! Now I'm looking for ways to re-instill that politeness.

“That!” “Mine!” I want!” “Now!” “No!”

Holy smokes, where does this come from?

Sound familiar?

Learning manners takes time and patience. Acquiring these skills is part of a child's social-emotional development.

Looking to help your little one mind their manners?

Here are a few tips I'm trying to remember!

  • Model the behavior you want. Easier said than done! When my little one points, whines, and wants, I often need to breathe deep and in my kindest, sweetest voice give her the words she needs. If it doesn't work the first time, try again. And again.
  • Ignore behaviors you don't want. When possible, ignore non-desired behaviors. Depending on your child and the situation, you may see your child's behavior escalate OR go away. If it escalates, re-direct, but be careful not to reward the non-desired behaviors.
  • Act it out. Pretend playtimes and meal times present opportunities for us to introduce our children to the desired manners we are hoping they will acquire.
  • Practice and patience. Every day provides multiple times for our little ones to practice their manners. From using utensils correctly (appropriate expectation for toddlerhood and beyond), to asking politely and saying “thank you,” embrace every interaction as a teaching opportunity. If your munchkin is in a childcare setting, be sure to communicate your goals with other caregivers.

Tips or tricks for helping a little one learn manners?

Please share! After all, it's the polite thing to do.

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Mind Your Manners

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is a mama to one little lady, freelance writer, and the director of education for a non-profit community school of the arts. Graduating with a B.A. in Music and a M.A. in Child Development, Jeannie began her career in quality child development programs as a teacher, then moved into creative administrative roles with science centers, symphony orchestras and arts programs. Owner of 170+ year old house, Jeannie loves living in small town America where walks to the park and ... More

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