As a first-time parent, I wasn’t sure how to teach my kids manners until I witnessed an acquaintance whose son requested a snack while playing at our home. She simply replied, “How do you ask nicely?” and he repeated his request with the word “Please” Simple, right? Well, sometimes…but not always.
Having two young, energetic kids who spend a good chunk of time around a variety of people in childcare or out in public, I feel it’s even more important to model good manners. (Good manners at home go a long way too). This issue often comes up during the mealtime frenzy we experience every day. Once our kids find out what’s on the dinner menu they either get excited (if it’s pizza, mac n’cheese or pasta) or start whining (if it’s anything other than pizza, mac n’ cheese or pasta). We talk about how its polite to try food that someone else cooks you; we chew with our mouths shut; we don’t shout at the table; we say “excuse me” after burping, etc. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a process.
Reinforcing all those discussions with some good books that reflect our expectations around this issue usually helps. Here are some of my favorites by age level:
Excuse Me!: A little book of manners by Karen Katz
This fun lift n’ flap book by Karen Katz, one of my favorite authors, goes over the basics: saying Please and Thank You, Excuse Me, I’m Sorry, etc. Her colorful characters with expressive faces will appeal to 2’s and up.
(also by this author: “No Hitting!”, “No Biting!”, and “I Can Share”)
Mary Wrightly, So Politely by Shirin Yim Bridges and Maria Monescillo
In this story, it is the main character, Mary Wrightly who has good manners, but the kids and adults she interacts with who do not. She is willing to overlook being stepped on, bumped into, etc to a certain extent. But she speaks up when something important- a perfect present for her baby brother- is at stake. This book has been criticised for stereotyping girls as timid, nonassertive, etc. but the story is really about the character finding her voice and holding others accountable for their rudeness- a skill we all have to learn to do.
My Manners Matter: A First Look at Being Polite by Pat Thomas
Here are some other suggestions from Scholastic. Do you have favorite “manners” books or parenting strategies for this issue? I’d love to hear from you.