Your Child Today: Early Elementary

Why Manners Matter

Until recently, I thought I understood all I needed to know about children and manners.

I?ve read enough of Amy Vanderbilt to know that children should be taught to say "hello," "please," "thank you," "excuse me" and "I?m sorry."

They should show respect for older people and not interrupt conversations. Basic good breeding.

But one day last week, when my son didn?t acknowledge my sweet 70-year-old friend at the kitchen table, I realized that my child needed to learn more than just the mechanics of good manners, he needed to understand the reasons for good manners.

Educators tell us that our children?s early elementary years offer the perfect climate for politeness training. Children this age are extremely sensitive and are developing the very traits that can translate into good manners: curiosity, friendliness and the ability to imitate others.

So take advantage of this teachable stage to help your child develop a real sense of kindness and respect toward others. A child this age can understand that manners are less about how she feels and more about what others feel. Talk to her about the Golden Rule?"Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke:6:31)?explaining that God wants us to always treat others with consideration and courtesy.

Rather than tackling a list of do?s and don?ts with your child, experiment with different ways to teach manners, like role-playing. Have your son put on Dad?s shoes and tie and pretend to be someone else. After you?ve shown him how to say hello and shake hands, change roles. Next time, practice starting a conversation by asking a question about a favorite subject or sport.

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