Teaching children manners is part of being a parent. Since kids don’t come with instruction manuals, figuring out the best methods can often be trial and error (and error, and error). And reading books. And observing techniques used by other parents – the ones that work…and the ones that don’t.
Being the parents of an only child, we only have one shot to get it right. Talk about pressure. So I look to parents that have figured it out. My cousin’s wife is one of those people.
She and my cousin have four girls. We love to get together with them. And when we do, there is always lots to catch up on. Most recently, they visited us at the beach. With 5 girls, 4 adults, 3 dogs, 2 bedrooms in 1 house it was fun, fun, fun.
On the beach, the girls regularly came up to show us shells, brag about the waves they conquered, tell us they were hungry, etc. Since we were always engaged in conversation, it made it tricky for the girls to always have to wait to be heard. After a reminder from their mom, I got to see how she had taught her girls to get her attention without interrupting – and it was as simple as a beautiful gesture.
Later, instead of interrupting, one of the girls stood next to her mom and put her hand on her shoulder. Her mom continued talking, but let her daughter know that she knew she was there by putting her hand on top of her daughter’s hand. Then at the appropriate time, gave her a turn to speak.
What a simple concept. And yet so sweet. What I love about it is how gentle it is and how it uses respect as the foundation – for the parent, the child and the other people in the conversation. Brilliant. I don’t know where this concept originated. I obviously missed the parenting class the day they taught that lesson.
Better late than never.
If you have a great technique to share for teaching children manners, please tell us in the comments below. We are all in this together!