I love the movie Nanny McPhee. She becomes a nanny to a family with very naughty children and teaches them to “behave”. My girls love it when I say “behave” in my silly British Nanny McPhee accent.
I decided to write this post because this summer I have been noticing some bad manners in my house and I wanted to fix them ASAP.
Just tonight I took my children out to dinner and all three of them were smacking their mouths while eating their food. I also remember a time when the girls were so wild we couldn’t even go to a restaurant. Take out never tasted so good.
I took a poll and asked about 15 of my friends and family members what manners they thought every child should know.
Disclaimer: I know kids will be kids and it’s okay to let them be kids. But it is also important to remember that good manners are essential for every child’s self confidence and success in life.
TOP 10 MANNERS EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
1. SAY PLEASE and THANK YOU
In my little poll this was the most important manner by far.
My parents gave me a book with this title about 10 years ago for a house warming gift and I love it.
Sometimes I have to remind my kids to say please and thank you. But it makes my day when I don’t have to remind them, and my friends tell me later my girls gave them a big hug and thanked them for the delicious dinner.
Please and thank you are magic words.
2. Excuse Me
Say ‘excuse me’, even if it is an accident. My kids always bump into each and get mad. I try to tell them if they say ‘excuse me’ or ‘sorry’ right away, then it won’t elevate into something bigger.
I got this flip book for my daughters and they love to read it.
My girls have a burping and tooting problem but somehow when they say ‘excuse me’ it makes me feel a little better.
This picture is perfect for introducing #3.
3. Never say bad things about the food
Last week my children told me that my mom cooks better than me. I was seriously annoyed because I actually love to cook and think I am pretty good. They then told me I am a good cook and I learned from the best. I am going to take it as a compliment. But they had better NEVER say that when we are eating at another house. I remember when Vera was 4 years old and my friend made this gooey brownie ice cream dessert. We all sat down to eat it and Vera sweetly said, “It looks like poop, but it doesn’t smell like poop” then she took a bite and said it was delicious. Thank goodness everyone laughed. I almost had a heart attack.
Our rule is, try it and you most likely will like it. And they most likely do every time. I know this doesn’t work for every child–a lot of my friends have kids who will barley eat anything. Fortunately, as we get older, our taste in food changes. I used to hate onions; now I don’t mind them at all. Sometimes it just takes a little time and growing up to start liking different foods.
In the mean time just try and be polite even if you don’t like what’s on the table.
4. Don’t Interrupt
My children want my undivided attention 24/7. But sometimes it’s nice to have an adult conversation. I really can’t stand it when my kids interrupt. I ask them to say ‘excuse me’ but a lot of the time all I hear is ‘MOM! MOM! MOM!’
I read an article on livestrong that you and your child can have an unspoken signal to get your attention. For example, tell your child to place her hand on your knee or arm to indicate she has something to say. When you feel her hand on your leg you will know she has something to tell you, but she must wait her turn. You can then squeeze her hand to tell her that you know she is waiting.
Praise your child for not interrupting.
I wish I would have thought of this years ago. I know with younger children this couldn’t work but for 4-9 year old kids, it can save a you a lot of consternation.
5. Clean up after you make a mess
My children have a weekly chore list and they get points if they pick up after themselves and their friends. If they have enough points by the end of the week, I will take them to get an ice cream. If they wait and accumulate all their points, I will take them to a movie, bowling, or even buy them a little prize. This has worked better than giving them an allowance. (For now!)
6. Clear your plate from the table
Start them young with this one. It’s nice to have help after you cooked all afternoon. I love it when they clear the whole table for me and load the dishwasher. That really makes my night.
7. Open doors for others
Whenever I see a mother with a stroller I try to beat her to the door to help her. Just last week I saw a teenager do this for a stranger. It made me so happy that I told him he was so nice. It put a big smile on his face.
8.Stay out of friends pantries and fridges
If my girls are invited to play at a friends house I try to always send a healthy snack that they can share with everyone and tell them not to raid the kitchen.
If they get hungry they need to ask the parent in charge if they can have a treat. My daughter is also allergic to all nuts so I always try and send a lunch with her so parents don’t have to worry about what to feed her.
Teach your kids to do kind things and not expect to get anything in return. I was sick about a month ago and my daughter made me herbal peppermint tea, soggy cereal, and a little note to make me feel better. It really made me feel special.
As a parent, I know that if I treat my children with love and respect, they will do the same in return and the manners will follow.
10. Learn to set the table
This is more of a fun activity for your kids. My girls had a great time coloring the place mat and setting the table correctly.
All you need is a rectangle poster board and crayons. You can even use plastic utensils and paper plates.
Color and then place the items where they belong.
Nobody is perfect, so don’t stress about teaching your kids all these manners in a week. Maybe try one a week or one a month. What ever you know works best for you and your child. Every child is so different. The most important thing that I have learned is to have fun with it and make sure your child knows you love them no MANNER what.
What manners matter to you and your children?