I often wonder what Emily Post would have to say about kids today. OK, maybe often is a bit of an exaggeration. But when I see a child call their mom by her first name or demand something from their dad, I roll my eyes and mutter, "Kids these days." What happened to the days of pleases and thank yous? If you ask Faye de Muyshondt, founder and author of Socialsklz For Success  ($11, originally $16), she will tell you that the times have changed.
"For a while you had, 'Helicopter Parenting,' and then it went to the other extreme where the parent was the kid's best friend," she says. But being a child's BFF doesn't mean parents should push manners to the back burner.
"There is a natural hierarchy in life, and respect and consideration have to be a part of a child's life," de Muyshondt adds. Of course, turning your child into an etiquette expert is not as easy as reading them a book. Scroll through to see de Muyshondt's tips for teaching manners, and making sure they stick!
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Set Your Manners Standards
Before lecturing your little one about eye contact and proper greetings, you and your partner need to figure out your etiquette expectations. And then teach them.
"There are some parents that expect their kids to greet people and use 'Mr.' or 'Ms.' and some that don't," de Muyshondt says. "Decide what you want and then teach those skills. Don’t assume that these skills will be picked up by osmosis." By setting and following through with your standards, kids will have an easier time understanding and acting on them.
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Don't Teach Them Too Young
Believe it or not, there is a magic number for teaching manners.
"Generally speaking four years old is a great time to start teaching these lessons," de Muyshondt says. At that age, kids' brains are able to comprehend commands and certain concepts, making it easier for manners to stick. That being said, it doesn't hurt to role model good manners teach them please and thank you early on.
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Make It a Game
How does de Muyshondt get through to her youngest students? By acting things out.
"Role-playing is incredibly powerful," she says. "It’s kind of like a science experiment. You can teach a kid how a volcano erupts, but when you show them how it erupts, it is a much more meaningful lesson."
One of her most popular activities requires adults to act out different scenarios with children (e.g. walking in a room and saying nothing, walking in a room and giving short answers, walking in a room and having a conversation), and then asking the child to describe how they felt in each instance. In doing so, kids are able to actually see the impact actions have on others. If you're feeling very determined, de Muyshondt suggests videoing the scenes so you can reinforce the lesson later.
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Don't Chastise Them When They Forget
Reprimanding kids who misbehave is a knee-jerk reaction, but de Muyshondt says that's not the best response when dealing with manners.
"Most kids go running the other way or the eyes start rolling to the back of their head," she says. "They tune their parents out." She adds that it is "downright humiliating" for a child to be scolded in front of other people. Instead, let it go and focus on future lessons.
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Practice What You Preach
"Kids will pick up things that their parents do," de Muyshondt says, so it's important to act the way you want your kids to. And when you slip up — as we all do — make sure to turn it into a teaching moment.
"Even if you’re not embodying and living up to these skills in your everyday life, make sure that you’re teaching them."
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