As parents, we can all envision a future of a perfectly well-mannered children who say “sorry” when they have done something wrong, “excuse me” when they wish to be heard, and “thank you” when given something. Our reality may not be as pretty. Instead, we are faced with preschool kids who refuse to apologize, scream at the top of their lungs, and grab what they believe is rightfully theirs. How do we remedy this? Don’t worry, there is still hope for that future we dreamed of when our kids were still little bundles of joy in our unsuspecting arms. All we need is a little guidance on how to take the bull by the horns, or in this case, the child by the arm, and teach them to become well mannered little people.
The best time to teach kids manners, says Pia Pulido, a former preschool teacher with a Master’sDegree in Psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University, is when they are two years old or even younger if they are already beginning to socialize with other children. An-Marie Bartolome-Villarin, managing director of The Little Gym.s Terrific Tots Preschool Program agrees. “Having good manners is one of the basic foundations of building relationships,” she says. “It boils down to having respect and consideration for others.”
Be Consistent, Persistent and Insistent
In order to teach our children good, old-fashioned manners, we must be consistent, persistent, and insistent. When we are consistent, we do not confuse the child with different messages. “We clearly remind him about what it is we want him to learn,” says Anne Santos, a preschool teacher at Integrow Children.s Activity Center in Taguig City. “When we are persistent, we are determined and relentless in what we wish to teach. When we are insistent, we are firm about the lessons we want him to imbibe.” She adds that both parents (and other caregivers) must agree on the manners they want to teach and the method by which to teach them.
Don’t interrupt when someone is talking
If you catch your child interrupting someone, explain that it is that person’s turn to speak and later on, he will also get his turn. All he needs to do is wait. Stress the fact that it is impolite to interrupt when others are talking. If he has something important to say, give him concrete examples of what he can do such as saying “excuse me,” raising his hand like he does in school, or standing up and waiting for the conversation to end. As with all lessons, Bartolome-Villarin says it is best for a parent to teach by example. Always give your child your full attention when he is speaking to you. If you are interrupted, politely ask that person to wait.
Always say thank you, please, and excuse me
In the beginning, you will need to prod your child when it comes to saying “thank you,” “please,” and “excuse me.” Santos says you can remind him by asking, “What do you say?” or “What’s the magic word?” Be persistent when this happens.
Role play manners
Do not move on to something else until your child says the word you want to hear. When he does say it, give your acknowledgement. Bartolome-Villarin suggests role-playing. Because it’s fun, your child may not even see it as a lesson. Wrap different items and pretend that these were given by different people. Take on the roles of these people and ask your child what he will say when he receives the gift. Think of other situations where your child will need to say “thank you” and role-play them as well. When it comes to saying “excuse me,” tell your child that you don’t only say those two words after burping, passing gas, or sneezing, says Bartolome-Villarin. Describe different scenarios and ask him what he should say as well as when he should say it.
Kissing, blessing, or greeting adults
This habit goes hand in hand with teaching your child to respect his elders. It is important to begin at home. Whenever your child comes home, Santos suggests, teach him to kiss you or practice pagmamamano when he greets you. Offer your hand or cheek as a reminder. If your child is used to this, it will be easier to explain that he will need to greet his relatives in the same way during social gatherings. You can also teach this through role-play. Practice different introductions with your children; discuss what they can say when introduced to an adult.
Sharing with others
This is not an easy concept for a preschooler to understand because he is at a stage where his world mostly revolves around himself. However, if your child is already beginning to socialize, it is important to introduce the idea of sharing, says Pulido. Begin by demonstrating what it means to share. You may say, “John and Mark will share the train. John will get the blue train and Mark will get the red train. Your trains can go on the track,” she adds. You can also teach this during everyday activities; ask your child if he would like to share things with you such as food, says Santos.
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This will work better if you share things with him and with other members of your family as well.
The difficulty begins when your child has to give up a toy, leaving him with nothing. This is where you step in. Explain that sharing is a nice thing to do. If someone shares something with him, point out how good that feels and how wonderful it would be to make someone else feel that good, too.
It is very important that your child learns how to say “sorry.” More often than not, he may resist because of the embarrassment. Teach him in a non-threatening and non-scolding manner. Explain how the other person feels to give your child a better understanding of the situation, says Santos. Bartolome-Villarin adds, “Ask him how he would feel if someone hurt him, or grabbed his toy, or called him names. Would he like it? Would it hurt his feelings? Would he still like to play with that person? This will teach him empathy and compassion towards others.”
Finally, it is also important that you discipline your child for what he did. If not, he may end up just saying “sorry” to get away with it. “Once the child apologizes,” says Santos, “make sure to let him know he did the right thing.” Though quite a challenge, being persistent in teaching these old-fashioned manners will pay off when you hear your child say “please,” see him consistently practice pagmamano or see him share his toy for the very first time without being prodded. When that happens, you can truly pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
SOURCES:â— Pia Pulido, M.A. in Psychology, Ateneo de Manila Universityâ— An-Marie Bartolome-Villarin, Ed.M., guidance counselor/managing director, Terrifi c Tots Preschool Program, The Little Gym, Philippinesâ— Anne Santos, preschool teacher, Integrow Children’s Activity Center, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City