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Manners Matter

by Lori Sciame | July 26th, 2012 | Preschool
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Good manners mean a lot. As a teacher at a community college, I have had 18 year-old students that lack even the most basic manners. It’s not that these students aren’t bright or that they purposefully want to irritate me, they simply have not been taught by their parents or guardians how to act in a college setting.

Needless to say, I’ve spent valuable time away from the real purpose of my classes to discuss proper classroom etiquette, including things, such as not interrupting others when they are speaking, not talking or texting while I am lecturing, and not being chronically late. My advice to parents/guardians of preschoolers, then, is begin teaching manners to your child as soon as he or she learns to follow directions.

Here are two of the best words to use: please and thank you. I vividly remember how my mom and dad taught their four children to say, “Please pass the bread,” (or whatever food we wanted), and “Thank you,” once the object of desire made its way to us. This lesson, of asking politely for what you want, and the giving a positive affirmation once receiving it, became second nature for all of us kids.

Consider this – A student recently sent me an email requesting an endorsement letter for a scholarship. The word, “please,” was nowhere in the message. And when I let her know I had sent the document, she never said “thank you,” or “I appreciate your help.” When I saw her later, I let her know that she needed to follow etiquette when requesting favors from busy professionals. I did not judge her; I calmly taught her the correct manners concerning reference requests. If only her parents had taught her these simple concepts when she was younger!

Manners concerning how to eat can be easily taught as well. Of course there will be slip-ups along the way, but eventually your child will learn not to chew with his or her mouth open, not to play with food, and not to use a sleeve for a napkin. As he or she grows older, you can also discuss proper napkin placement (on the lap), and which utensil to use first (start from the outside and work inwards).

Another set of manners concerns taking turns. Teach your preschooler that he can’t always interrupt a conversation between you and your spouse, that everyone will have a chance to speak. Or tell your little girl that kids who have proper manners share toys without throwing temper tantrums. Play dates can do wonders in reinforcing these types of positive behaviors.

Finally, teach your preschooler about the concept of time. Don’t wait until kindergarten. When the school bus arrives at 7:20 AM, your child needs to know she must be ready by then. Discuss what on-time means now, and he or she won’t have trouble getting to class (or work) on time in the future.

Manners do matter, so begin teaching your child proper behavior as soon as he or she can understand the concepts being discussed.

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