Hello! It’s Erika here from Yellow Pear. I have four boys, and I’m constantly working on helping them turn into well-rounded, respectful gentleman. It can seem daunting when they are always wrestling, teasing, being goofy etc. but my husband and I are determined. I also have one girl and we are equally invested in her turning out to be a well-rounded, respectful lady, but I will focus more on the boys this time. We have come up with seven tips for teaching good manners for kids.
Be an Example
I think the most important way to teach good manners, kindness and respect, is by example. Notice when someone needs help and point out situations of need to the kids. Then most importantly show how to help. My husband gives up his chair for women, holds the car door for me, takes me on dates and always treats me like a lady. I try to notice when someone at the store needs an extra hand, a door held open or other such situations and involve the boys in helping.
Use Ordinary Situations
Using ordinary situations is my favorite way to teach good manners, chivalry and make my boys think. They don’t really know they are in a teaching moment, and it’s so much more impressive to see something play out in real life. For example, if a young mother is struggling to keep her screaming children together while shopping, we talk about how we could help (and then do so if the opportunity arises). We also discuss how she must be feeling overwhelmed, hopefully teaching empathy and some skills in noticing others and thinking about how they must be feeling. These types of learning moments generally work best in one on one situations when my husband or I are out with just one of the boys at a time. It also gives us a chance to listen to them and hear their thoughts and feelings more effectively.
I firmly believe that communication solves most problems, particularly when it comes to teaching good manners for kids. We’re not telepathically hoping they will get the message of how we expect them to behave, but we have talked about it previously and agreed upon a certain action. I’ve also found that if my boys understand the reasoning behind how we want them to act, then they seem more likely to follow through. Also, clearly communicating our expectations to them allows them know exactly what we want from them, and keeps us all on the same page (or at least a little closer to the same page).
I tell them stories of how much it means to me when someone has noticed a problem I am having and steps in to help. My husband talks to them about treating women with respect. I talk to them about humor and how it can be used effectively. We have discussed the difference between bathroom/foul humor and humor that takes a little more wit and thought. We talk ahead of time about how to act at friend’s homes. I think we all feel more secure knowing what the expectations are.
Teach Good Manners for Kids
Teaching good manners for kids is ongoing and seems ridiculously hard at times, but we are persevering! We have a few table rules: keep elbows off the table; chew with your mouth closed; sit on your chair correctly; ask to be excused; ask politely for food to be passed; no bathroom jokes. We are always working on polite table conversation (ie. listening to someone’s comments and waiting for your turn to talk). We also talk about gratitude, looking people in the eye, shaking hands, having a good attitude and responding to questions without mumbling.
We want our sons to know how to work and to work hard. We have involved them in a variety of work from car repair, to gardening, to helping their grandpa on his farm. Everyday life provides plenty of opportunities too like laundry and housework. My kids are required to help clean the kitchen after meals, clean their rooms, make beds and do chores. We don’t want to send them out into the world unable to take care of themselves and their future families. They do not usually work willingly — maybe someday — for now there are always complaints and whining. We try to make work fun and make plenty of time for outings and fun activities as well.
Dress the Part
I want my boys to be boys — they can jump and run and rough house with the rest of them. However there is also a time to clean up, comb those unruly locks, dress nice, and put on their best behavior. Teaching good grooming, hygiene, when to calm down and listen is also very important in raising a gentleman. It’s helpful to learn that how you dress is a good indicator of how you should act at a certain event. (ie. best dress means best behavior.) My boys do not always like dressing a certain way, but the more we do it, the better it gets.
Acknowledge Good Behavior
Acknowledging and praising good behavior is HUGE! Everyone loves to feel appreciated and to know that someone noticed.
I remember very vividly walking into Sams Club with all four boys. I was holding the baby and watching the others jump/twirl/walk ahead of me, making sure no one got run over. We quickly caught up to an older lady in a motorized wheel chair. She was having trouble with her keys and purse and then dropped her keys. She proceeded to try and figure out how to reach them. My middle son was closest and quick as a wink, he ran ahead, picked up the keys and handed them to her. My heart swelled! I knew he had to really be paying attention to see the problem unfold.
Later, I took him aside and told him that I had seen what he did and how proud I was of him. I told him I was proud of what a gentleman he was. He practically glowed!
My boys are far from perfect, and we do not have all the answers on raising gentleman. These are just a few of the things that are working for us, and most of all, we’re not giving up!
If you have more ideas on how to teach good manners for kids, please share them in the comments because we’d love to hear them.