How To Teach Etiquette

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 10 minute read

For as the saying goes, “each succeeding generation is like an army of small barbarians storming the gates of civilization; they must be civilized before it’s too late.” American economist Thomas Sowell wrote such remarks in his book “A Conflict of Visions,” which might be offensive to new parents who, gazing at their newborn, couldn’t fathom the future of defiance and tantrums.

Babies instantly become the center of their parents’ universes. Defiant and quick to anger, this person is difficult to deal with. Thankfully, kids have the capacity to learn the key social skills of empathy, collaboration, and sharing as they develop and interact with others.

You will have the greatest influence on your child’s development if you take on the role of first educator. According to Phyllis Magrab, Ph.D., director of the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, the “age of imitation” occurs between the ages of two and four. “Toddlers listen intently and repeat what they hear,” she says. Parents, for better or worse, have a profound and long-lasting effect on their children’s conduct, beginning in infancy and continuing well into adulthood.

It’s possible that the Christian Bible’s references to the “sins of the father” being visited onto the children of the father are meant to highlight the profound influence that parents have on their offspring. Similar sentiments are expressed in other adages, such as “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” “a chip off the old block,” and “like father, like son.” To paraphrase Maya Angelou: “I became the sort of parent my mother was to me.”

Respect for oneself and for others is the most valuable lesson parents can impart to their children. Respect may be seen in activities like showing restraint, speaking softly, and making meaningful gestures. Good manners have a profound effect on and help determine character, the core of who we are as individuals.

Politeness does not only belong to the privileged or the talented. Instead, they are accessible to everyone without respect to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or income level.

The Advantages of Good Manners in Children

When our kids make a favorable impression on others, it’s not only the parents who profit; the kids do as well. People who have been instilled with good manners are more equipped to handle stress and hardship with poise. Meeting new people and acting appropriately in unfamiliar settings are two scenarios when good social skills are crucial. In addition, consider the below advantages.

  1. Self-Esteem

Confidence and contentment stem from a positive self-perception. Maintaining a healthy self-image requires believing in one’s own worth and ability. Family psychotherapist Dr. Carl Pickhardt writes in Psychology Today that when individuals have a positive self-image, they treat one another more kindly, which in turn improves their own well-being.

  1. Happiness

Research published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that helping others increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction. Lara Akin, one of the study’s authors, posits that kindness and happiness form a “sort of positive feedback loop”; doing a good act makes you feel good, and the better you feel, the more likely you are to perform another good deed.

  1. Reciprocity

Scientists have shown that unpleasant actions, such treating other people’s feelings as unimportant, are seen as a form of social rejection and hence activate pain centers in the brain. Because of this, the offended person feels badly about the perpetrator and may respond violently.

But when you treat people with dignity, they usually return the favor. Green River, Wyoming’s public schools opted for an anti-bullying curriculum that emphasizes social skills training since it met legal requirements. While many parents have been pleased with the initiative, one said that schools “can only do so much.” Also, families need to do their part.

  1. Greatness

Peers have a favorable impression of kids who treat their classmates nicely, show sympathy, and express appreciation. In addition, when you treat others with respect, you strengthen your connections with them. Children who make an effort to use proper manners are both liked and perceived as being liked more. Therefore, they receive greater affirmation from others, proving their value.

  1. Opportunity

According to Elena Neitlich, a leading specialist on etiquette, youngsters who have outstanding manners and social skills “stand out and have a leg up on their peers,” especially in today’s more competitive employment and university market. An essay on rude managers who lack self-awareness was published in the Harvard Business Review in 2003. 

How their words and deeds influenced those around them was the focus of this piece. CEO of Corporate Rain International Tim Askew says in Inc. that good manners are “an vital skill increasingly absent from the modern entrepreneur’s toolbox.” Young adults who join the workforce with a firm grounding in excellent manners and etiquette have a leg up over their less courteous peers.

  1. Physical Health

Since its inception in 1987, SSRIs including Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil have seen a consistent rise in their widespread use. According to Harvard Medical School, 1 in 10 Americans are antidepressant users, and TheStreet estimates that the market will generate $13.4 billion in revenue by 2018.

Unfortunately, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that SSRIs are prescribed to children for depression despite the fact that they have been linked to increased feelings of despair, suicide ideation, and withdrawn behavior.

Expressions of civility, good manners are the bedrock upon which peaceful relationships and a satisfying standard of living are built. Positive mental and physical health benefits can be attained via cultivating meaningful relationships with others. Positive connections act as a stress buffer and have been linked to better health and happiness, according to a study published in Oxford Journals. Children, like adults, experience stress when they are faced with major life changes like a death in the family, a divorce, or a move to a new school. 

Fortunately, most children’s capacity to handle stress increases with time if they feel they have the ability and emotional support of family and friends, according to

Teaching Your Child Manners

Throughout their lives, children go through many developmental phases that bring with them newfound capacities in areas such as physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Parental understanding of the developmental shifts in behavior expectations is crucial.

Expecting a two-year-old to have proper table manners or to introduce themselves to adults is an example of an unreasonable expectation. But if you get them started young, your kids will have a leg up in developing lifelong social competence.

Parents have the greatest impact on their children’s education. One-year-old children, according to Dr. Lisa Naiven of the Valley Center for Child Development, mimic the behaviors they observe in adults. In the ensuing 12 months, infants gain extensive knowledge in several areas, including language and socialization.

For them, learning entails four stages: observation and comprehension; imitation and practice. According to Dr. Howard Klein, the chief of behavioral pediatrics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, parents should set a positive example. He states that “toddler parents are always observed.” This is a very impressionable age range [from one to two], so set a good example.

Children of all ages benefit from consistent, age-appropriate limitations and structure. They can’t grow or even stay alive without confinement. It is the responsibility of parents to make sure their children are both secure and developing properly when they engage in their natural tendency to learn via exploration.

As their children grow, parents must adapt to their changing demands and talents and accept the fact that kids just don’t think like grownups. When toddlers get antsy at the table, it’s not because they’re trying to be disobedient; rather, they’re bored and ready for an outing. It’s very uncommon for 5-year-olds to “steal” another kid’s item without permission if they really enjoy it. A temper tantrum from a three-year-old is not the same as one from an eight-year-old.

Infants under the age of 18 months

Babies are expecting to be cared for around the clock after spending nine months being coddled by their mothers. The newborn learns for the first time what it means to suffer the negative effects of hunger and isolation.

They also understand the pleasure associated with physical contact, such as holding or nursing. They are still too little to grasp that Mommy may be preoccupied with something else. A newborn is too young to learn manners.

Toddlers (ages 18 months to 3 years)

Donna Jones, author of “Taming Your Family Zoo: Six Weeks to Raising a Well-Mannered Child,” says, “When you start early, your child learns that being courteous and caring is just the natural way people act.” In this developmental stage, kids understand that they belong to a community and that the world is shared with others. They are taught that there are some “rules” that they must follow, even if they aren’t told why.

Children at this age have trouble making moral judgments and instead follow the examples set for them. A young child, for instance, lacks the cognitive development necessary to realize that slapping someone is painful. They have internalized the message that striking is unacceptable as a result of parental instruction or disciplinary action. The ideal age to teach a youngster to obey adults is when they are two or three.

Primarily, teaching youngsters to use the phrases “please” and “thank you” is the first step in instilling good manners in them. At first, kids could say it to sound like their parents, but they won’t understand the context or the value of the words their parents are using. Toddlers are unable to reason and have poor self-control.

They imitate their parents and soon begin using the terms themselves. Teach them to say “excuse me” when they have to cough or bump into someone, and “thank you” when they have been fed.

It’s possible that some kids may pick up on the concept of saying “hello” and “goodbye,” but in reality, they’ll be all over the place, saying “hello” with a smile one day and cowering behind their mom’s knees the next. Please don’t stress over this or demand nothing less than perfection. When they are older, it just seems normal to them.

Preschoolers (ages 3 to 7)

Children begin to integrate parental values and develop a sense of belonging to the family unit around the age of three. They understand that their actions have consequences for the lives, freedoms, and emotions of others. Preschoolers are able to differentiate between a “kid” and a “adult” and recognize that adults have authority.

They are also familiar with the timing of repercussions: This is what happens if I act badly. They should be taught not to strike or name call by the time they are four years old at the latest.

Children of this age can benefit greatly from lessons on turn taking and sharing. At first, it will be challenging, and they may regress periodically when a beloved plaything is involved. They can also learn to pay attention and refrain from talking over others. Respect for others may be taught by modeling actions like listening, not interrupting, taking turns, and sharing.

Preschoolers often mix up their vivid imaginations and irrational concerns with what is actually happening in the world. For instance, youngsters may put stock in tales of witches and monsters told to them by their older peers. When they’re homesick and exhausted, they look for something familiar to cuddle up with, like a teddy bear or an old quilt. They may have trouble stopping playing when they’re having fun, which can lead to exhaustion and irritability.

Children need to learn proper greeting etiquette, including when and how to say “hello” and “goodbye,” as they mature. Parents often struggle with the decision of whether to educate their children to address one another by their first names simply or by Mr. and Mrs. Mr. George or Ms. Ann is a decent middle ground between the two extremes. They need to learn to stand and shake hands formally when presented as they get older.

Preadolescents (7 to 10 years)

Those between the ages of seven and 10 have a keen awareness of justice. They recognize the value of rules, but they also desire a voice in the rulemaking process. Children of school age think they should be punished if they do anything wrong. Some kids absorb this principle to the extent that they start telling secrets.

At this point in development, kids start to form their own ideas and negotiate with parents about rules and consequences. An astute parent knows when to give in and when to stand firm, and they avoid both extremes. Children of this age know that while their parents are still authoritative figures, they are not without flaws. They are quick to notice inconsistencies between a parent’s words and deeds and to doubt the justness of parental regulations when this occurs.

Young adults can be taught the more nuanced aspects of good manners, or “etiquette,” as it is commonly known. They gain deeper empathy and an understanding of the “why” behind people’s actions once this occurs to them.

Bottom Line

Etiquettes, or mannerly behaviors, may evolve throughout time, but the requirement to educate oneself and treat others with dignity remains constant. When it comes to acquiring etiquette, however, children of all ages and stages of development have the same basic requirement.

The best thing you can do for your kids is to be patient and willing to start over if they need to. Keep in mind that your kids look up to you as an example of the kind of person you hope they’ll grow up to be.

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