10 WAYS TO TEACH YOUR TODDLER MANNERS
- Model Good Manners – When you’re attempting to teach your toddler the basics of politeness and good manners, you must keep in mind that much of toddlers’ learned behavior is modeled after what they observe the loved and admired adults in their lives exhibiting. One of the best and most effective ways to help her learn good manners is to make sure that you always say things like “please” and “thank you” yourself.
- Start Small – The world of manners and etiquette is vast and can be complicated for some adults to navigate properly. The key to helping your child learn the more subtle points of mannerly behavior as she gets older is to keep your lessons age appropriate, starting with simple concepts during the toddler years. Sharing, asking nicely, and showing gratitude are great places to start.
- Make Play Dates Learning Experiences – Your child is learning about the world and her surroundings through exploration and play, which is why play dates can be such valuable teaching tools. If you’re focusing on sharing, make sure that she’s being reminded politely that she should always share her toys. If the goal is mastering “please” and “thank you,” point out the times when those phrases are appropriate.
- Be Consistent – It can be frustrating to attempt to instill civility and manners into a toddler that seems to show no interest in accepting those skills, but it’s important that you don’t give up out of frustration. Consistency, repetition and structure are key components to teaching young children new skills.
- Use Positive Reinforcement – If your parenting style allows for tangible rewards for good behavior, make sure that you’re rewarding any exhibitions of good manners. If not, it’s important to praise her accomplishments and let her know that she’s done the right thing by choosing to be polite in any given situation.
- Make Mealtimes Work for You – Sitting still and focusing aren’t key strengths typically exhibited by toddlers, which is why you may find that you have more luck working with your little one during meal times. Coaching on “please” and “thank you” during meals, along with asking nicely for things and behaving as well as possible, can help to build a strong foundation for future lessons.
- Keep Your Expectations Realistic – Expecting a toddler to master the more subtle nuances of polite social interaction simply isn’t realistic, and will only lead to both of you feeling disappointed and frustrated. Focus on the things that your toddler is able to learn, and save the lessons on dessert forks until she’s a bit older.
- Think About Your Disciplinary Tactics – Look at how you’re disciplining your child, and determine whether or not it’s conducive to helping her learn good manners. If you resort to shouting and angry words when she’s not doing what you expect, it’ll be difficult to instill the concept of inside voices and calm requests.
- Take a Trip to the Local Bookstore – Many of the major milestones in early childhood are discussed in children’s books tailored specifically to the attention span and developmental needs of little ones. Switching out a favorite bedtime story for a new book about manners can be a great way of helping her to apply the concept in a way that she understands.
- Explain Why Manners Matter – For older toddlers, it may be necessary to explain why learning good manners are important, especially if they’re naturally exuberant. Taking the time to calmly and firmly explain about hurting the feelings of those around them and being nice to the people they know can make a noticeable difference.
Working with your children to build the groundwork for good manners and behavior is a task that doesn’t always go as planned. Try to keep in mind that every child develops at her own pace, and she may take longer to grasp the concepts of sharing, gratitude and politeness than her siblings or peers. Continuing to work with her on these concepts while maintaining as much patience as possible is the best way to reinforce good manners.