Sure, your preschooler is starting to get the whole idea of "please" and "thank you." But is it realistic to expect perfect decorum at the dinner table at this age? Circle of Moms members Chelsea H. thinks not: although she says she's a stickler for good manners in kids and that her daughter learned to say 'thank you' reliably by the age of one, she also believes that "You can't expect 3- to 5-year-olds to sit through a multi-course dinner or become walking Ms. Manners."
Many Circle of Moms members find that between the ages of three and five their children are receptive to learning the rules of polite conduct — in small doses. But they also say kids don't learn unless you take it upon yourself to teach them — and stick with it. Kristin G. started teaching her kids "common courtesies like 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'you're welcome' at this age, but she's found repetition to be key. As Nikki J. says, "My two-year-old is learning manners, but needs be reminded from time to time."
So what are the good manners that parents can successfully teach to kids in the pre-K years? Here, Circle of Moms members share five critical ones that most preschoolers can master.
1. Behaving Appropriately in Public
Preschoolers are smart enough to know not to throw things or to "run around like wild animals" in public, suggests Tamara W. "I am rarely one to sit and judge anyone's parenting style. Having a couple [of] high maintenance kids [myself], I know it can be tricky and things don't always appear as they seem. But I teach my toddlers not to throw things and litter and run around like wild animals. You can start to teach your kids responsibility in public places at a young age."
2. "Excuse Me"
Preschoolers can learn the concept of not bumping into others, or moving over to let others by, and saying "excuse me," suggest Circle of Moms members. "I'm a bit of a helicopter parent in public when it comes to manners," says Jenni. "I'm constantly telling my children to 'Move over to the side please and let the lady pass," or say 'excuse me' if you want to get by."
A good time to teach a preschooler the concept of "please," is when they want something. Simply respond to a demand for more milk, or another book, with, "How would you ask for that nicely?" And the best way to get the habit to stick is to model it yourself. Chelsea H., whose two-year-old has learned to say 'please,' shares, "I have noticed since she started talking, my husband and I use our manners and are generally more polite than we were before, because we act the way we want our children to."
4. "Thank You"
Preschoolers can also learn how to be polite when they receive something. Alecia D.'s 17-month-old knows to say 'thanks' when she is given what she asked for, and now this mom is working on the more formal 'thank you." She believes that saying 'thank you' is very important:. "I don't think enough people say it anymore. We tend to take things for granted these days and I believe we can do something to change it around by just saying thank you and teaching our kids to say it too."
5. Getting Attention Politely
Preschoolers are notorious for wanting your attention NOW, and as Kayleigh L. bemoans, they seem to especially love to interrupt when grownups are talking. But they can learn techniques for doing this politely, like saying 'pardon me' or 'excuse me' when they are trying to get your attention, says Circle of Moms member Monique. And Karen B. shares a clever and subtle way of dealing with this: she taught her little girl to "put her hand on our arm if she needs to interrupt a conversation." In turn, she and her partner "put our hand on her's to acknowledge that she is there and [to let her know that] we will address her as soon as possible. It's worked really well."
It's not easy to teach preschoolers manners, and is often a lengthy process that requires patience. But most agree that starting early is worthwhile: "Manners are very important for us to teach our children," says April J. "The adults who aren't polite are a lost cause in my opinion. Better to teach our children now while they're young so that they learn that being polite is just a normal way to behave."
What manners do you teach your preschooler?
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