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Politeness 101

by Ronald A. Rowe | March 22nd, 2010 | Elementary
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One of the most consistent comments I get about my children is that they are so polite. It is a wonderful compliment but also something of an indictment of what passes for manners among most children today. So, for what it’s worth, here are the keys that I used in teaching my children to be polite.

1. Model politeness. Kids do what they see much more than they do what they’re told. ”Do what I say not what I do” is out. If you want your child to be polite, switch to “Please pass the potatoes” from “Give me those”, and watch what happens.

2. Reward politeness. I’m not talking about giving the child candy or toys when he is polite. Reward him with praise and acknowledgement. ”Good job”, “That’s the way to ask”, and “I’m proud of you” make fantastic rewards.

3. Do not reward impoliteness. It seems obvious, but it takes more discipline than you might imagine. It is much easier to just ‘let it slide’ when Junior demands a peanut butter and jelly sandwich than it is to seize a teaching moment. But if you hold your ground and refuse, he’ll learn quickly that the way to get what he wants is to ask nicely the first time.

I’ve found that there is no need to actually punish impoliteness, except in extreme cases. For the most part, simply refusing to reward a child’s lack of manners is enough to nudge her in the right direction. It takes time and consistency, but before long your child will be noted as standing apart from the crowd because he or she treats others with a courtesy generally seen only in adults.

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