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  • 'Po,' 'Opo,' and Other Manners: How to Teach Kids to Show It on Their Own

    Moms and experts share their experiences when it comes to instilling good manners.
    by Stephanie Gonzaga .
'Po,' 'Opo,' and Other Manners: How to Teach Kids to Show It on Their Own
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • No matter how much times have changed one thing still rings true: the Filipino practice of saying “po,” “opo,” among others. 

    With the parents’ guidance, children can start to learn to adopt these manners at an early age. However, when should we be able to say with confidence that our children can already perform it on their own without us gently reminding them to do so?

    As we all know, values are formed inside the home, and parents are children’s foremost role models when it comes to good manners.

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    Manners explained
    According to an article by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker on Psychcentral, a licensed psychologist, and a family counselor, teaching children about manners helps breed a sense of empathy.

    “Manners are a codified way each culture has for keeping things pleasant even when we’d rather not,” Walker explains. “As we teach our kids the words and rituals, the manners, of our culture, we are laying down the foundation of genuine empathy later on.”

    When children have a basic understanding of why manners are essential, coupled with firsthand experience of it as seen through their parents interacting with others, they will know that it is what is expected of them and that it is not only a customary practice but an actual expression of respect for others’ dignity.

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    Moms, teachers, experts speak up
    In a 2014 article on SmartParenting.com.ph, Pauli Antoine Porquez Genuino, an etiquette expert and the founder of Etiquette de Manille, an etiquette consultancy agency said she recommends introducing the concept of manners to children as early as 1 to 2 years old. 

    We asked moms if they still require their children to use “po” and “opo” and at what age. Many confirmed they started teaching their children the practice as soon as they can speak, even if they were still struggling with to pronounce the words.

    “Truly kids learn by listening and adapting,” said one mom. “I have to remind him every time he speaks. ‘Ano po ‘yun?’ Then he needs to repeat the sentence with ‘po’ and ‘opo.’”

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    Clarisse Marjerie Aliganga, an educator at Eye Level-Makati, believes children can learn the practice on their own as early as their toddler years. “Children would be able to say ‘po’ or ‘opo’ as early as 2 to 3 years old without coaching,” she says. “Children are taught very early to be respectful to adults. A parent I know taught her kids how to mano as early as two years old and encouraged them to do it whenever they were with relatives, family, or friends.” 

    The rising number of children who are taught English as their primary language over Filipino, however, is creating some impact on the use of “po” and “opo,” according to some preschool educators.

    “If the whole family are English speakers and don’t practice ‘po’ and ‘opo,’ children do not have the reference at all,” explains Krinezza Para-onda, a teacher at the Miriam College Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf.

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    Krinezza has observed that many children already say ‘po’ and ‘opo’ without coaching, but it has to be reinforced with plenty of modeling and practice. “Children will be able to apply it to their daily lives, and later on it will become part of their identity as Filipinos.”

    Age is but a numberA child can learn, absorb and appreciate behaviors as early as six months old, and will learn to speak when he turns one. 

    While these are good indicators of when to start introducing the value of manners, there is no hard and fast rule when a child should be able to say ‘po’ and ‘opo,’ as well as practice other manners, on his own. As long as parents and educators consistently exhibit the habit and explain its importance to children, these displays of respect will soon become naturally woven into their day-to-day life.

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