For many parents, the first time their little one says “please” or “thank you” is a milestone that makes them feel like they’re on the road to raising a good human. While “please” and “thank you” are certainly important, teaching manners becomes a lot more complex as kids grow into their elementary school years.
As kids get older, they begin to navigate different social situations and encounter people with a range of expectations around what “good manners” really means. As parents and caregivers, we can work with our kids to understand what manners really are and how they can move through the world in a way that helps them and the people they care about feel good. Read on to learn more about teaching manners to your elementary schooler.
Talk about what manners really are
When we’re teaching our toddlers or preschoolers manners, we focus on concrete things that are easy for little brains to understand. Things like saying please and thank you, eating with our utensils, and taking turns. As our kids get older though, it’s worthwhile to talk with them about what manners really are: a way to show other people that you care about them and their comfort. When kids understand that manners serve a real purpose and that using good manners can help people they care about feel good, they’re more likely to want to learn and apply what you teach.
Model what you want to see
Just like with everything else in life, kids learn a lot more by watching what we do, not what we say. Be mindful of how you treat everyone in your life when your kiddo is around; from family members you know and love to the stranger in front of you in line that’s getting on your last nerve.
Heap on the praise
When your child shows care in a normal or extraordinary way, be sure to let them know how proud you are. Name what they did and why it was awesome so they understand how their specific action showed care. Try something like “Allison, I saw you invite the new student to your table at lunch today and make sure she was included in the conversation. That showed a lot of kindness and care and probably really helped her feel good on a day she might have otherwise been nervous. I’m so proud!”
Correct gently and privately
If you notice your kiddo missing the mark, take note and do your best to save correction for a time when you’re not with others. No one likes being corrected in front of a group and your child will likely be more receptive if you approach the conversation as a moment for learning and growth rather than admonishment.
Be sure they know that using good manners doesn’t mean doing things that make them uncomfortable
Manners are important, but nothing is more important than your kiddo staying safe and learning to trust their internal voice. Talk explicitly with your child about trusting themselves and how they should never let an adult pressure them into something that makes them uncomfortable just because they don’t want to be rude.
Helping your child grow into the good person they have the power to be is part of the lifelong work of parenting. With kindness, intentionality, and care, you’ll be raising a kind-mannered kid in no time!