Never in the history of time has a newborn come out thanking their mother for enduring labor and delivery. For starters, of course, the words aren’t there. What’s more important, though, is the fact that manners are not something we’re born with.
Keeping both of those things in mind is critical for parents who are attempting to teach their children good manners. Communication plays a large role in expressing good manners, so if Baby’s language skills are still blossoming, it may not be reasonable to expect them to consistently use their limited vocabulary to mind their Ps and Qs.
Since manners must be taught over time, here are some tips to help Baby build some early etiquette.
- Use words, not hands: Unless Baby is using their hands to sign, one rule to encourage early is the importance of keeping their hands to themself. This means, on the playground, reminding Baby not to hit or shove their peers and to respect people’s personal space. In terms of words, remind Baby that it’s polite to say “please” when asking and “thank you” when receiving. If Baby isn’t able to express the words verbally yet, teaching the proper signs can be a good stand-in to set the stage for future “pleases” and “thank yous.”
- Show and tell: If you want Baby to use good manners, it’s important to be a good role model. Toddlers tend to mirror the adults around them, so by using your own manners throughout the day, you’re actually teaching Baby that it’s expected that they do the same. It may not always feel like it, but when you thank the cashier as you’re checking out at the store, or remember to say “please” when you’re asking Baby to behave themself, or help clean up their toys, you’re teaching them how to be polite.
- Be consistent: As is the case with teaching toddlers most anything, consistency is key. If you only enforce the “please” and “thank you” rule on certain days, or in certain situations, there’s a good chance that they won’t understand that it’s expected at all times. Practicing good manners all through the day will help Baby understand the importance of what you’re teaching.
Even when putting in the work, it’s a good idea not to expect miracles. Baby is still a toddler, and they still may not want to share or wait, no matter how often you tell them that it’s the polite thing to do. Keep your expectations realistic and clear. When Baby does show good manners, recognizing it and praising them can help to reinforce good behavior.