If you’re the parent of a toddler or preschooler, you know that it can be tough to teach good manners and behavior in public. However, it isn’t impossible. Here are some tips for teaching your child good manners in public, so you can more confidently run errands, visit friends, and even eat in a restaurant with your young child.
Teach respect early
Respect is the fundamental foundation of good manners, and it can be taught even to preschoolers who are testing the boundaries of acceptable behavior. To teach your child respect, the most important thing to do is to model the sort of behavior you want your child to learn. Say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” and demonstrate respect in all your interactions. Even in disagreements, your child should see that calm words get a better result than yelling or shouting.
When out in public, you and your child may need to wait in line or sit for lengthy periods of time. It’s not realistic to expect your preschooler to sit quietly for a long stretch right away, but you can start getting him comfortable with waiting patiently at home. You can practice patience by encouraging sharing, or asking him to wait for one minute while you pour his juice. You can also ask him to sit with you at the table during family meals, but keep the length of time short to begin with. For example, try five minutes to start, and then build on that next time if all goes well.
Teach age-appropriate table manners
Getting your toddler or preschooler to demonstrate table manners as good as an adult’s isn’t reasonable, but you can start with some basics that are also restaurant-friendly. For example, you can encourage your toddler not to yell or throw food from the table. Preschoolers can learn table manners such as not talking with their mouth full.
Depending on their age, a child’s greeting may range from a simple wave, all the way up to saying “Hello” and using the person’s name. Encouraging your child to say hello and goodbye to your guests may seem like a cute behavior, but it sets up a foundation for further interactions with people in a social setting. It also develops self-confidence, though shy children may not be very keen to say hello to strangers initially.
Praise good behavior
Children are more likely to repeat a behavior if they are rewarded for it in some way. When your child performs an act of good manners, such as picking up a toy that a playmate dropped, it’s important to let her know that what she did was good. However, resist the urge to over-praise. This can teach your child that everyday good manners are remarkable in some way, and not the norm. A simple, “Thank you for picking up Carly’s toy for her,” will be sufficient.
Don’t expect perfection
Toddlers and preschoolers have many things to learn, so don’t expect them to display perfect manners too soon. There will be instances where your child forgets to say “thank you,” or runs and hides instead of greeting a visitor, but that doesn’t mean he’s permanently forgotten good manners. Instead, try again next time. Treat good manners as an everyday life behavior, and it will eventually become second nature to him.