Raising a Child With Good Manners
5 to 7: Manners On Display
Kids this age are more able to listen to directions and engage in conversation. At school, they're being asked to be quiet, take turns, and raise their hands. Manners will help them get along.
* Keep talking. As your child's verbal skills improve, talk about what he considers proper manners. Kids are more likely to follow rules they think they've invented. Solomon and Celia Goldfarb, ages 8 and 5, came up with these table manners: "Solomon knows don't use your spoon as a cannon, and Celia knows don't say 'ewww, yuck' about food," says Aviva Goldfarb of Chevy Chase, Maryland, publisher of The Six O'Clock Scramble, a weekly newsletter of easy recipes.
Talk to your child about your expectations and listen to what he says is hard for him to do. Solomon "doesn't stay put to savor meals," says his mom, while his sister stays at the table to enjoy her food but likes to move around while telling stories after she eats. So their mom cuts Solomon some slack and has put a small trampoline in the dining room for Celia.
* Maintain boundaries. While it might be tempting to tell your child that it hurt when she said your new dress was gross, don't muddy the discussion by introducing your emotional life. Instead, keep to what is and isn't acceptable.
"It's better to say 'It's not okay to talk to me that way,'" says Ehrensaft. "Children hunger for -- and need -- your guidance."
* Accept the hard work. "Unruly kids tend to have parents who're tired or who've given up or don't think it's a big deal," says Hennes, who's seen lots of parenting styles.
A friend of his found she couldn't even go grocery shopping with her kids because they'd run all over the place, he says. "She discovered that being lax was a hard way to be." Then came the day when the friend was in the supermarket with Hennes, his wife, and their three kids. "She said, 'Wow, your kids are perfect,'" he says. "We said 'No, it takes a lot of hard work. It's taken a lot of teaching to get them like this.'"
Boy, have I taken these lessons to heart. And the results show. The other morning when Drew said, "Water, please," in a superfast voice devoid of emotion, I told him that the sentence I wanted to hear was this: "Mom, may I please have a glass of water?" When he said he didn't want to say that, I explained for the tenth time that I speak nicely to him and I expect him to speak nicely to me. It's good for the family and it's good for the world, I told him.
The next morning, all on his own, he spoke the sentence I wanted to hear. I have hope.