Good manners, like other social skills, don’t just happen they are acquired. Some parents set a great store by their children having perfect table manners. Others have a far more laissez-faire attitude and are glad enough when their offspring remember to say please and thank you occasionally. However polite children tend to be more socially confident and a smile and a little charm can go a long way.
Table manners are important. You don’t want your child to be embarrassed when he goes to tea with a friend or during school dinners. Different cultures have different rules but the main thing is not to give offence to people eating with you - for instance talking with your mouth full and spraying others with food. Children follow the example set by adults, so having family meals at the table is good practice. As is eating out but if you can’t afford a restaurant, you could always arrange a “posh” meal at home.
Swearing and slang expressions can be very embarrassing if used in front of the in-laws. Try not to swear in front of children - and never at them - and if they do come home from nursery or school and turn the air blue explain that this is a bad word and they shouldn’t use it. Slang and silly expressions are more difficult to counter.
Tip: ask your child to keep “playground talk” between their friends and explain that it is inappropriate at home/church/in the classroom.
Please and thank you seem to be the hardest words for children to use and they need to realise how much their politeness may improve situations. If you constantly use these words when you’re asking her for something your child will imitate you. Try not to prompt your child in front of others with something like “What do you say then?”
Tip: use a sign that you’ve agreed on (for example touching your chin, holding your ear) or a special look to remind her.
Bathroom etiquette - there’s nothing worse than going into the bathroom and finding the loo unflushed and the seat up. Children are always in a rush especially if they’re playing with friends but encourage them to make flushing a loo and washing hands a matter of course. Boys should be taught to lift the seat and replace it afterwards.
Tip: use a chart with stars for every time you are happy with the bathroom or loo and deduct them if you’re not. Agree the number of stars for a small treat.
Undesirable behaviour - like picking his nose - criticise the behaviour not the child.
Tip: remember there is a difference between what you don’t like, for instance screaming matches or shouting from one room to another, and what is unacceptable like spitting or using foul language.
Look for good behaviour - rather than highlighting the bad - and make a point of praising your child for it.
Tip: sometimes it is wise to ignore the odd infringement of your house rules so you won’t sound like a constant nagger.
Talking - children need to learn to take turns in conversation and not to interrupt others.
Tip: listen attentively to what he has to say and don’t interrupt his conversations unnecessarily.