Learning manners can be a lifelong venture. But the basics can be taught in preschool. While parents can expect mistakes, learning manners at the preschool level is not out of the question. Here are some ideas on how you can teach your preschooler manners.
Read Stories about Manners
There are lots of good books about manners. Call your local library or do an online search for books that have to do with manners. They do not have to be “how to” books; while those are fine, engaging stories that showcase polite behavior are also appropriate. The same would be true for DVDs and videos, too.
Remind, Don’t Scold
Sources suggest that reminding your preschooler about his manners is better than scolding. After all, preschoolers have a lot to learn and they tend to live in the “here and now.” It often takes a while for something that is taught to be internalized. So if you have taken the time to teach your preschooler to use her spoon at the table and she dives into the mashed potatoes with her hands, just pick up her spoon and hand it to her with a reminder we eat mashed potatoes with a spoon.
A note on using utensils – a great way to help a preschooler learn the proper use of utensils is to serve treats or dessert that must be consumed with a utensil. He can’t eat the dessert unless he uses his fork or spoon – he will probably pick up the skills fast!
Be Clear and Consistent with Rules and Consequences
First, make sure the rules and expectations are clear. Telling your preschooler to “be good” in the grocery store may be too vague. Tell her specifics, and make it a list she can recite with you. “Sit down in the cart, don’t grab, don’t yell,” or “Walk with Mommy, keep your hands to yourself, use your inside voice,” are just some examples.
When there are consequences to your preschooler’s misbehavior, make sure she knows why. If you had to leave a playgroup or friend’s house because of her bad manners, let her know it was because she misbehaved that you left. You don’t need to guilt-trip her; just make sure it’s clear that her behavior caused the consequence.
Reward Good Behavior
Going back to the grocery store example, you could reward your preschooler with a special treat (maybe ice cream on the way home to avoid a “scene” in the store) if he behaves. If he has bad manners, the consequence is no ice cream. Good manners earn him a treat, which will help reinforce the behavior (as long as you’re clear that it was the good manners that got him the privilege).
Show, Don’t Tell
The best way to teach your preschooler manners is to model the behavior you want to teach. Actions speak louder than words, so if you yourself don’t show good manners, chances are, neither will your children. On the other hand, if you always behave properly and treat others with kindness and respect, your children will pick up the same behavior, too.
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