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Teaching Manners To Your Toddler

Teaching Manners To Your Toddler
Every parent dreams of the polite little child who says "please" and "thank you." After all, your child's behavior reflects on you. Manners come easily to some children, others are social flops. Understanding the basis of good manners will help you help your child acquire them. Good manners, after all, are necessary for people to live together in this world. Gracious manners reflect a loving and considerate personality.

1. Expect respect.

Believe it or not, you begin teaching manners at birth, but you don't call them that. The root of good manners is respect for another person; and the root of respect is sensitivity. Sensitivity is one of the most valuable qualities you can instill into your child -- and it begins in infancy. The sensitive infant will naturally become the respectful child who, because he cares for another's feelings, will naturally become a well-mannered person. His politeness will be more creative and more heartfelt than anything he could have learned from a book of etiquette. In recent years it has become socially correct to teach children to be "assertive." Being assertive is healthy as long as it doesn't override politeness and good manners.

2. Teach polite words early.

Even two-year-olds can learn to say "please" and "thank you." Even though they don't yet understand the social graciousness of these words, the toddler concludes that "please" is how you get what you want and "thank you" is how you end an interaction. At least you've planted these social niceties into your child's vocabulary; later they will be used with the understanding that they make others feel good about helping you. When you ask your toddler to give you something, open with "please" and close with "thank you." Even before the child grasps the meaning of these words she learns they are important because mommy and daddy use them a lot and they have such nice expressions on their faces when they say these words. Children parrot these terms and understand their usefulness long before they understand their meaning.

3. Model manners.

From age two to four, what Johnny hears, Johnny says. Let your child hear a lot of "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "excuse me" as you interact with people throughout the day. And address your little person with the same politeness you do an adult. Let your child catch the flavor of polite talk.

4. Teach name-calling.

We have always made a point of opening each request by using the name of our child: "Jim, will you do this for me?" Our children picked up on this social nicety and address us by title: "Dad, may I..." or "Mom, would you..." Our son Matthew, now eight, has made all of these language tools part of his social self. Matthew has concluded that if he times his approach for the right moment, looks me in the eye or touches my arm, addresses me as "Dad...," and adds a "please" or "may I," he can get just about anything he wants. Even when I know I'm being conned, I'm a pushover for politeness. Although Matthew doesn't always get his politely-presented wish, I always acknowledge his good manners.

5. Acknowledge the child.

The old adage "children should be seen and not heard" was probably coined by a childless person. Include your child in adult goings-on, especially if there are no other children present. When you and your child are in a crowd of mostly adults, tuning out your child is asking for trouble. Even a child who is usually well-behaved will make a nuisance of herself in order to break through to you. Including the child teaches social skills, and acknowledging her presence shows her that she has value.

Stay connected with your child in situations that put her at risk for undesirable behavior. During a visit with other adults, keep your younger child physically close to you (or you stay close to him) and maintain frequent verbal and eye contact. Help your older child feel part of the action so that he is less likely to get bored and wander into trouble.

6. Don't force manners.

Language is a skill to be enjoyed, not forced. While it's okay to occasionally dangle a "say please" over a child before you grant the request don't, like pet training, rigidly adhere to asking for the "magic word" before you give your child what he wants. The child may tire of these polite words even before he understands them. When you remind a child to say "please," do so as part of good speech, not as a requirement for getting what he wants. And be sure he hears a lot of good speech from you. Overdo politeness while you're teaching it and he'll catch the idea faster. "Peas" with a grin shows you the child is feeling competent in her ability to communicate.

7. Correct politely.

As a Little League baseball coach, I have learned to chew out a child -- politely. When a child makes a dumb play (which is to be expected), I don't rant and rave like those overreacting coaches you see on television. Instead, I keep my voice modulated, look the child straight in the eye, and put my hand on his shoulder during my sermon. These gestures reflect that I am correcting the child because I care, not because I am out of control. My politeness shows him that I value him and want him to learn from his mistakes so he becomes a better player, and the child listens. I hope someday that same child will carry on these ball field manners when he becomes a coach.

Have you ever wondered why some children are so polite? The main reason is they are brought up in an environment that expects good manners. One day I noticed an English family entering a hotel. The father looked at his two sons, ages five and seven, and said, "Now chaps, do hold the door for the lady," which they did. I asked him why his children were so well-mannered. He replied, "We expect it."

5 Ways To Teach Your Child To Apologize

Apologizing helps your child accept responsibility for a wrong and provides a tool to make things right again. It helps the child dig himself out of a hole. It clears the air, helps heal the relationship, and gives it a new beginning. To teach your child -- and yourself -- the art of apologizing, try these tips:

1. Model apologizing.
When you've acted wrongly, admit it. Apologize when you overreact: "I'm sorry I yelled at you. You didn't deserve that outburst. I've had a hard day." I've said this to my children many times. Everyone makes mistakes; that's life. Everyone apologizes; that makes life better. These are valuable lessons for a child to learn. Saying "sorry" to your child is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Even "the boss" should apologize if his or her actions are unkind. A child who has never been apologized to won't understand the apology process, and more than likely he'll refuse, turning a potentially beneficial moment into a standoff with hurt feelings.

2. Start young.
Toddlers quickly learn to give a hug to "make it better" when they hurt someone. If you model hugs for hurts at home, he'll know just what to do. Once he's calm and ready to hug, you can verbalize a simple apology and maybe help him say it with a hug.

3. Forgiveness follows apologies.
Apologizing and forgiving need to happen after someone gets hurt or offended. For most everyday squabbles we tell our kids that we want them to "make peace" with whomever they are at odds with. It doesn't need to be a formal apology scene. We leave it up to them to figure out what "make peace" means and how to do it. Sometimes they use words, sometimes they don't. But we all know if they have or haven't. In order to live in the same house together, siblings need to be at peace with one another. Apology without forgiveness is an incomplete process. For real healing to happen the one offended needs to "drop the charges" by saying "that's okay" or "I forgive you."

4. Say "excuse me."
Children belch, gulp, and fart – excuse me, pass gas. Boys especially delight in showing off their body sounds. If one unintentional belch gets laughter, you can imagine what will follow. But if these sounds meet with silence or mild disapproval from you, they will soon fizzle away. Teach children that, in company, breathing sounds (that is sneezing and coughing) are okay but digestive tract sounds are rude. When your child emits upper digestive tract sounds in your presence, look disapprovingly, and say "excuse me." Require the older child to excuse himself. Passing gas is especially offending because of the odor accompanying the sound. As your child gets older he will learn he can control this function most of the time and do it in private. If passing gas becomes a habit, the offender will quickly be taught by peer disgust to keep it to himself. As kids mature a bit their gut sounds diminish; these offenses will soon be sounds of the past.

5. Stop manipulating feelings and orchestrate sincerity.
Some children learn to parrot an "excuse me" or "I'm sorry" within a millisecond of the offense to avoid being "squealed on" or to get themselves off the hook quickly if parents force apologies. Parents can't force feelings. Only the child knows how he feels. Forcing feelings can teach your child to fake apologies, that it's okay to be insincere, or that forgiveness has to be an instant thing which is not real life. Depending on the ages of the children, their temperaments, the circumstances, and the emotions that may be flaring, a cooling-off period before an apology will be needed. A two-year-old who just kicked his sister may need a two-minute time-out on a chair, along with a reminder that kicking hurts, before he's ready to hug her. A ten-year-old who slaps her sister for vicious teasing must deal with wounded pride before she'll be able to remember how wrong it is to slap. It's your job as a parent to make sure the apology happens so both children can start again with good feelings between them. But, you cannot make it happen. What you can do is model and instruct: "When people are at peace with each other they feel better inside."

11 Ways To Raise A Truthful Child

By understanding why children lie at times, it is easier to understand what to do. Getting behind the deceitful words (or actions) and into the child's mind will help you practice preventive discipline. Here are ways to build a truthful child.

1. Practice attachment parenting.
Connected children do not become habitual liars. They trust their caregivers and have such a good self-image they don't need to lie. Even the most connected child will spin a few outrageous yarns at four, try lying on for size at seven, and try more creative lying out at ten. When you've caught your child lying once, and you've corrected her, don't automatically assume she's "lying again" if a similar situation arises. Give her the benefit of checking out the facts or she'll be hurt that you don't trust her.

2. Model truth.
Create a truthful home. Just as you sense when your child is lying, children will often read their parents' untruths. If your child sees your life littered with little white lies, he learns that this is an acceptable way to avoid consequences. You may be surprised to learn the lessons in lying your child witnesses in your daily living. Consider how often you distort the truth: "Tell them I'm not here" is the way you get rid of a phone pest. You rationalize that this isn't really a lie, or perhaps it is only a "white lie," which, as opposed to a black lie, is really all right because it gets you out of an embarrassing situation. Don't ask your child to share in your lie by having him say you're not at home. (Instead, he could say, "She can't come to the phone right now. May I take a message?") Don't tell your child something is "gone" when it really isn't just to make it easier for you to say he can't have anymore. Sharp little eyes often see all and you haven't fooled your child at all. You've just lied to him, and he'll know that, since he knows you so well. Just say "no more now" and expect your child to accept that.

Also, don't become a partner in your child's lying. If your child didn't finish her homework because she was too tired or disorganized, don't let her convince you to write a note to the teacher saying the printer broke on the computer. These practices sanction lying and teach the child how easy it is to avoid the consequences of poor choices.

3. The truthful self is OK.
Convince your child you like her just the way she is. "I like a truthful C more than an untruthful A," you teach the youngster who marks up her real grades. The child who knows her acceptance in the family is not conditional upon performance is less motivated to lie.

4. Don't label the child who lies.
Avoid judgments like "You're a liar!" or "Why can't you ever tell the truth?" Children often use parental labels to define themselves. To them a bad label is better than no label at all. At least "the liar" has an identity. A label can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Better to say something like, "This isn't like you; you're usually honest with me." Don't ask, "Are you lying?" but rather, "Is that really the truth?"

5. Avoid setups for lying.
If your child tends to lie, confront him squarely with a misdeed rather than giving him the opportunity to lie. If you don't want to hear lies, don't ask questions. If he's standing in front of the broken cookie jar with telltale crumbs on his hands, it's ridiculous to ask if he did it. Of course he did it. Confront him.

6. Expect the truth.
Give your child the message "I expect you to tell the truth." Children should not feel they have choices in this matter. Children are not intellectually ready to deal with situational ethics, which teaches: "You tell the truth when it's convenient, but choose to lie when it's not." They'll get enough exposure to this kind of thinking in high school and college. When your child knows what you expect, he's likely to deliver.

7. When your child lies.
Always correct your child for lying. Don't let him think he's getting away with it. Confront him and let him know you are disappointed. A child with a conscience will punish himself by feeling remorseful. Any further punishment would depend on each circumstance. Any natural or logical consequences should be allowed to take place. Occasional lying will happen, but habitual lying needs to receive counseling to uncover the cause.

8. Encourage honesty.
Every chance you get, talk about how important "the truth" is. Don't wait until you are in the middle of a situation when what you say may be taken as preaching. Comment on broader topics, such as truth in print and advertisements, how truth keeps life simple (lies to cover lies), and how the truth always comes out in the end. Current events and family happenings can be analyzed from the standpoint of honesty. Talk about how truthful people are respected. Have a look at honesty themes in literature, such as "crying wolf."

9. Teach a child when silence is not lying.
Children are delightfully honest, but sometimes at the wrong moments: "Aunt Nancy, your breath stinks" or "You really are ugly." Teach the child that if the truth hurts someone's feelings, it is not necessary to say anything. "Sometimes it's best to keep thoughts to yourself." While you don't want to squelch the candor and honesty of children, you do want to teach them to consider others' feelings. Remember Thumper's line from Bambi, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

10. Get behind the eyes of your child.
"Maybe you just wanted the toy so much that you imagined that Andrew gave it to you. Shall we call him and check?" This gives your youngster a chance to come clean, or maybe Andrew did give it to him. You need to play detective and help him uncover the truth, for you and for him. Young children can talk themselves into believing a pretend story if it satisfies their desires. Once a child reaches the age of seven he is better able to understand the difference between pretending and telling pretend stories that are intended to deceive.

11. Offer amnesty.
Sometimes you know that your child has lied to you, and you want to turn a negative experience into a moral lesson. Try offering amnesty. When our son Bob was fifteen he asked to go to a rock concert, which he rationalized would be okay because it was held at our church. We said no, and told him we felt that this particular group modeled values foreign to our family. Conveniently, there was also a team curfew Bob was under because of a football game the next day. Reluctantly he agreed. I had heard about the group, but I wanted firsthand observation so I could be sure of my judgment, so I went to the rock concert. A few weeks later we found out from another source that Bob had attended, too. After getting over our initial shock and anger (this was way out of character for Bob), we called a family meeting and offered "amnesty" to any misbehavior "no matter how awful." The children were allowed to get any wrongdoing off their chests. Bob confessed. Afterward he shared his relief. (We had worked hard to build consciences that would bother our children when they did wrong -- healthy guilt.) We explained we already knew he had gone to the concert, thus teaching Bob it's unwise to lie. If amnesty hadn't worked, we would have confronted Bob and there would have been stronger consequences. In this situation, we wanted him to have the benefit of confessing voluntarily so he could experience the reward of deciding to come clean. Bob, now a father himself, fondly recalls this event.

Looking back we realize how our attitude toward something important to Bob actually pushed him to be so uncharacteristically defiant. A highly-principled child from the very beginning, Bob explained he felt we were using the curfew as an excuse to deny his attendance. He was right. We had discussed this ahead of time, before we laid down the rule. We could have asked the coach for an exception or asked Bob to leave early. Bob told us afterward that the whole football team was there, flaunting the curfew. In hindsight, I should have cleared it with the coach and then arranged for us to go together, father and son, to enjoy an outing. Since this whole episode, we've watched our teens develop a wholesome discernment in their entertainment choices, and we have broadened our range of tolerance. Martha actually enjoys some of the rock music our children listen to and finds it a window into their world.

If you create an atmosphere in your home and an attitude within your child that honesty is the best policy and the child's truthful self is really the nicest person to be around, you are well on your way to building trust and avoiding dishonesty.

Stealing: Preventing and Disciplining
Little fingers tend to be sticky, allowing foreign objects to mysteriously find their way into little pockets. Before lamenting that you are harboring a little thief in your house, take a moment to understand why children steal and how to handle this common problem.

1. Understand why kids steal.
Like lying, "stealing" is an adult term that may not mean anything to young children. Candy found clutched in a sticky fist after going through a checkout line or a toy car that turns up in the pocket of a four-year-old after a visit to a friend's house is not proof that your child is already a delinquent. To the preschool child, possession means ownership. In a child's mind he has a right to anything within grabbing distance. Children under four have difficulty distinguishing between "mine" and "yours." Everything is potentially "mine." They don't know that palming a piece of candy at the grocery store is stealing until you tell them so. In the child's mind he has done no wrong until the parents pass judgment.

Many preschool children can't curb their impulses. They see the toy, feel they must have it, and take it without any judgment as to the rightness or wrongness of the action. Instead of guilt, they feel relief that their craving is satisfied. The more impulsive the child, the more likely he is to help himself to things.

Around five to seven years of age children develop a hazy notion of the wrongness of stealing. They can understand the concept of ownership and property rights. They come to terms with the reality that the whole world doesn't belong to them and begin to understand the rightness or wrongness of taking things that don't belong to them -- stealing. Also, by this age the child may become a more clever thief. Still his deterrent is more the fear of adult retaliation than an understanding of the immorality of stealing. Jimmy may recognize that it's wrong for Jason to keep the baseball cards he "borrowed," but the next day Jimmy may want to hang on to Jeff's prized cowboy pistol and bring it home at the end of the play session.

Stopping petty stealing and teaching its wrongness may seem to some like a smallie, but learning honesty in small matters paves the way for biggies later. A child must learn to control impulses, delay gratification, and respect the rights and property of others.

2. Practice attachment parenting.
Because connected children are more sensitive, they are better able to understand and respect the rights of others. These concepts sink in deeper and at an earlier age. Connected children feel remorse when they have done wrong because they develop a finely-tuned conscience sooner. It's easier to teach values to attachment-parented children. These kids have the ability to empathize and understand the effects of their actions on others. And they have parents who are putting their time in, being with their children enough to realize when they stray into these gray zones. Connected kids have an innate respect for maintaining trust between people. Lying, cheating, and stealing violate this sense of trust.

Because attachment parents know their children so well, they can read facial and body language cues that reveal a child's hidden misbehavior. And because of the parent-child connection, the child is more likely to accept the parents' advice and values. Because they trust their parents, connected kids are also more likely to come clean when confronted. They find it harder to lie about their actions because they feel wrong when they act wrong and they know that their parents can read that "suspicious look."

3. Lead them not into temptation.
Children will take money from family members almost as though it is community property. They may even rationalize "I'll give it back when I can." Teach your children to keep their financial affairs private. Money should be kept in a locked box which is stored in a secret place. Anytime money is lent, an "IOU" should be required to help them remember who owes what to whom. You should also keep your money inaccessible, except for smaller amounts in your purse or wallet that must be asked for. Sure family members trust one another, but give them credit for being human and don't allow temptation in the path. If someone comes to us and complains "Someone took my five dollars," we ask "Where were you keeping it?" We don't bother detecting the perpetrator -- as we said above, we know conscience is at work. And, we will not be put in the position of being responsible for the safe-keeping of money for those old enough to do it themselves. Siblings, after all, are not the only possible suspects. Our kids have learned the hard way you can't trust everyone. This is in itself a good lesson for life.

4. Teach ownership.
Toddlers have no concept of ownership. Everything belongs to a two-year-old. Between two and four a child can understand ownership (the toy belongs to someone else), but may not fully believe that the toy doesn't also belong to him. Even as young as two, begin teaching "mine" and "yours." During toddler toy squabbles the parent referee can award the toy to the rightful owner, but don't expect this concept to sink in fully until around the age of four. Look for other opportunities to reinforce the concept of ownership: "This toy belongs to Mary," "Here's Billy's teddy bear," "Whose shoes are these?" As the child grasps the idea of ownership and the rights that go along with it, teach the logical conclusion that ignoring these rights is wrong.

Correct wishful ownership. "It's mine," insists the four-year-old whose detective parents discover a suspicious toy in his backpack. "You wish the toy was yours," replies the parent. "But now tell daddy who this toy really belongs to." "Johnny," the child confesses. Capitalizing on this teachable moment you reply, "If Johnny took your toy, especially if it was one you really liked, you would feel very sad that your toy was missing. What would you want him to do?" The best way to teach lasting values is to draw the lessons out of a child rather than imposing them. You want the "give it back" idea to come from the child if at all possible.

5. Correct the steal.
Getting the thief to give back the goods sometimes requires masterful negotiating. Encouraging and helping the child to return stolen goods teaches not only that stealing is wrong, but also that wrongs must be made right. If you find an empty candy wrapper, go ahead and trot the offender back to the store with payment and an apology.

6. Identify the trigger.
Find out what prompts the child to steal. The child who steals habitually despite your teaching about honesty usually has a deep-seated problem that needs fixing. Is the child angry? Does he steal to vent the anger? Does the child need money and feel that stealing is the only way he can get what he believes he needs? If so, offer an allowance. Help him get odd jobs. Help the child learn work ethics so that he can earn the toys instead of steal them. Most of the time a child who habitually steals is suffering from a poor self-image and needs to steal to boost his worth or get attention. As in handling all behavioral problems, it's often necessary to take inventory of your whole family situation. Does your child need more supervision? Perhaps, some redefining of priorities and reconnecting with your child is in order.

7. Identify the child at risk to steal.
Watch for these risk factors:

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Impulsiveness: strong desire, but weak control
  • Generally insensitive to others
  • Not connected
  • Angry
  • Change in family situation, for example, divorce
  • generally bored
  • alone a lot
If you focus on helping your child deal with these risk factors, lying and stealing should subside.

It's important to get to the bottom of stealing. If the problems behind chronic stealing and lying are uncorrected, they tend to snowball. With repeated misdeeds, the child convinces himself that stealing is not really wrong. He desensitizes himself to his own conscience and to your teachings. The child without remorse is at high risk for becoming an adult without controls. With attachment parenting, even if a child is not "caught in the act," he will punish himself sufficiently with the remorse he will feel. He won't want to repeat wrong actions.

8. Praise honesty.
The five-year-old finds somebody's wallet and brings it to you. Praise him to the limit for his action! "Thank you for bringing Mommy the wallet you found. Now let's see if we can find out who it belongs to. I'll bet that person will be very happy you found it, just like you would feel if you lost something special and someone returned it." Avoid saying, "Thank you for telling the truth." Some children may not even have thought of keeping the wallet, and you don't want to plant in their minds the option of being dishonest. Whatever praise you give, convey the message that your child did just what you expected.

Children cheat. But like lying and stealing "cheating" is an adult concept not well understood by the child under six. To an adult, cheating is akin to lying or stealing. But a child who is fabricating his own rules as he grows does not yet understand why rules are not supposed to be changed or broken. Best to translate cheating into a positive value -- fairness. Even a six-year-old can understand "play fair." Teach your child that cheating is wrong because it's unfair to other children in the game. Ask him how he would feel if he played fair but his friends didn't. Notice as you play games with children from six to ten, they often change the rules to their favor even if they understand them in the first place. There's no problem with changing the rules, as long as all the players agree before the game begins. This kind of rule change adds creativity to board (or bored) games.

The child who cheats at school is a matter for discipline. Does the child cheat without remorse? Many times the child feels forced into cheating because of parental pressure or the spirit of competitiveness in the class. The desire to please parents with high expectations can override even the most solid little conscience. The temptation to cheat is especially strong in a child with a weak self-image who equates self-worth with accomplishment. If he wins he's a winner; if he loses he's a loser. So he must win even if he has to cheat to do so. This unhealthy attitude can develop if you model that winning is all that counts when playing (or working) with adults.

You can help your child avoid the temptation to cheat at school. Take care to put just the right amount of scholastic pressure on the child. Too little and he gets lazy and bored, and becomes unfulfilled and unhappy; too much and he either gives up or cheats to achieve. Try to find the balance that fits your child. We have given our children the message that good grades make you feel good and that they are one (not the only) ticket to success. We tell them that we want them to get good grades first to please themselves and second to please us. They are in control, based on how much work they are willing to do, of achieving their goals. We will be pleased if they sincerely do their best -- no one can ask for more.

Copyright ©, 2006-2008: Baby: Teaching Manners To Your Toddler