While there are many influences which shape a child’s personality, it is the family and the home which set the dominant tone. Here are several ways for parents to instill courtesy in their children.
• Start with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
The first polite term a child can be taught to use is the word “please.” That should quickly be followed by “thank you.”
Letitia Baldrige, author of The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, tells how to do it: “As he begins to form words and stick out his cup for more milk, whoever is feeding him should ask him, ‘Say ‘Please?’ and eventually back will come the word, “Please.”
‘Thank you’ follows along right after ‘Please.’ As the child develops verbally, his parents should teach him to say ‘thank you’ for each meal, car ride, toy or cookie offered to him.”
When these two phrases are reinforced consistently, a time will come when the child will automatically say, “Please” and “Thank you” to the various people with whom he will be in social contact: scout troop leaders, waiters, nurses, physicians, teachers, bus drivers, friends and store clerks.
• Use everyday experiences
An effective way to teach manners and set standards in the home is to use everyday experiences. For example:
• Require children to wash hands before eating.
• Train children to wait until everyone has been served before starting to eat.
• Encourage a child not to interrupt when someone else is speaking.
• Explain that is it not polite to speak with your mouth full.
• Teach a child that if she cannot reach an item on the table, to ask the person nearest it to please pass the plate or bowl.
• Remind a child to say, “excuse me” if he must leave the table.
• At the end of the meal, everyone should thank the person(s) who prepared the food.