The subject of Good Manners is one that comes up on a daily basis in my role as a Nanny. I’ve studied Children’s Etiquette at the Protocol School of Washington and at The International Butler Academy in the Netherlands and one of life’s certainties is this; good manners are appreciated by everyone, in every situation, in every corner of the world. They aren’t about being stuffy and old fashioned, they’re about making others feel comfortable and respected.
Kids with good manners stand out, they get invited back more often and appear more confident and self assured. The manners they use are in direct correlation with the way they are perceived by others so give them this valuable leg up in the world by modeling expected behaviors from the moment they’re walking and talking. They wont have all these down pat by first grade but they should be well aware of there existence and on their way. As we all know kids are often shy, role play situations that may come up in advance and put some tangible tools in their box.
Here are my top 20 that I believe all kids should be on their way to mastering by elementary school.
- Always say, “Please” and “Thank you.” I cant think of an exception to this rule, can you?
- Be able to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s the first step in teaching kids to be responsible for their actions.
- Say “excuse me” when you accidentally bump into someone, or make an unexpected burp/gas/sneeze.
- Eye Contact. If they’re speaking or listening to someone they should be looking at that person, not at you.
- Shaking hands. This is not going out of style anytime soon so teach them to reach out, shake hands and smile.
- Introductions. When someone says hello, the appropriate thing for your 5 year old to say is, ‘Hi, my name is ............” Give them this skill early, they’ll be introduced almost everyday throughout their entire lives.
- Use a napkin. Place it in your lap, use it to wipe your face and put it back in your lap.
- Chew with your mouth closed.
- Don’t reach and grab across the table. If you cant reach, ask someone, “please pass the ......”
- Kids can bring their own dishes to the sink as soon as they’re out of a high chair.
- Teach them the art of small talk. Just a couple of conversation starters for when you have dinner guests can go a long way, “How was your trip?”, “Where do you live?” “Do you play any sports? I play....”
- By first grade a child is capable of sitting through a meal without fidgeting and needing to use the bathroom.
- Send a hand drawn or hand written thank you note. E mail is not the way to go, at least not yet. Children can grasp a crayon between 12-18 months to scribble and most can write something resembling their name at age 4, you can write the rest.
- Teach them to knock on a closed door before entering. If you’ve ever been caught by surprise on the other side you know why.
- Ask before you borrow something and return it in good condition.
- Take turns. This is an important early life skill to master because its the foundation of learning to get along with others and thinking beyond ourselves.
- Don’t interrupt. Use role play and show them how to interject at a break in conversation
- Sharing isn’t easy for young kids but the sooner it becomes an expected behavior the sooner your child will be getting along well with others.
- Hosting. Have you child take a friends coat at the door and say, ‘thank you for coming’ when their friend leaves.
- Be a good guest. Say, ‘Hi my name is .....” to a parent or child they don’t know and, “Thank you for having me,” when they leave.
Remember, starting early and giving kids plenty of opportunity to practice these skills is what gets long term results.
Joanne Barrow is a veteran professional Nanny who brings to our readers over 20 years of Child Care expertise. Just this April, she was given the prestigious honor of 2013’s Nanny of the Year by The International Nanny Association (INA). The INA are a private, nonprofit educational organization, who since 1985 have been serving nannies and those who educate, place, employ and support professional in-home child care. www.nanny.org
Joanne is a certified Children’s Etiquette consultant from The Protocol School of Washington and studied formerly as a Butler and Household Manager at The International Butler Academy in The Netherlands where she graduated with distinction.She has participated in numerous programs and workshops focusing on children’s growth and development, health, safety and Child Day Care Management.
In addition to the substantial impact families say she makes through her ordinary daily activities, helping parents raise their children for over 2 decades has included navigating them through some major lifestyle transitions such as the loss of a parent, divorce, adoption and emotional disorders.
Joanne currently works as a Nanny in Rye, NY and lives in Valley Cottage, NY where she joins us as a bi-monthly contributor at One Savvy Mom ™.