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Manners Still Matter

Posted 12/6/2016 by UHBlog

Manners count and help children develop stronger relationships. Need help knowing what's normal? Talk to us.

Manners Still Matter

Although the term “etiquette” may not be used every day, kindness and effective social interaction are essential in developing healthy relationships, says Kimberly Burkhart, PhD.

By learning good social skills at a young age, children develop socially and emotionally into respectful and kind adults, she says.

Depending on your child’s age, Dr. Burkhart recommends these helpful strategies for making your child socially successful:

Young children (ages 5 and younger):

  • Sharing. Discuss the ways your entire family takes turns and plays nicely. Say, “Mommy is sharing her food with Daddy.” Daddy would follow by saying, “Thanks, Mommy!” Praise your child for doing the same: “I really liked the way you let Tommy try the swing.”
  • Using words. Young children’s first reactions to social conflicts are often physical – pushing, kicking, hitting. Teach your children how to identify their emotions by labeling. Help your child find verbal forms of expression. Teach phrasing such as “I don’t like when you grab my toy. Can you please give it back?”
  • Waiting patiently. What seems like a short time until you are seated at a restaurant can feel like a long time for a toddler.
    “Remember that patience is taught through adults modeling patience," Dr. Burkhart says. “Like any skill, patience takes practice. Praise your child when he or she is waiting calmly and patiently. In situations that require longer wait times, bring appropriate distractions and healthy snacks, and consider using tangible rewards to reinforce positive behavior.”

Middle years (ages 6 – 11):

  • Saying “I’m sorry”. Help your child see things from other people’s points of view. Once there’s an understanding of how behavior affects others, encourage apologies and other ways to make amends.
  • Treating others well. Model a polite attitude to those you encounter. Explain that smiling and saying “thank you” makes a difference to another person. When kids learn how to respect others, they learn to respect themselves.
  • Speaking up for victims. Whether your child is the target or a bystander, encourage them not to tolerate name calling or unkind behaviors, Dr. Burkhart says.
    “Teach your child to tell the bullying child to leave him or her or others alone in a strong but calm voice, then walk away and find a trusted adult who can help,” she says.

Tweens and teens (ages 12 and older):

  • Staying kind online. Make it clear that the same rules apply to social media as in real life. Bullying, name calling and threats are never okay, even if they're “only” digital. Set clear rules and follow up with developmentally appropriate consequences, says Dr. Burkhart.
  • Disagreeing with respect. Family members and friends don't always have the same opinion.
    “Encourage your child to keep a positive attitude, listen to others’ thoughts and feelings and consider others’ perspectives,” she says. “When arguments occur, listen to your child, provide support and ask whether there is anything you can do to improve the situation.”
    According to Dr. Burkhart, teaching your child “I” messages (“I feel…when you…because I…”) is a helpful communication technique when there is disagreement or conflict.
  • Helping people in need. Volunteering and other ways of giving back not only help the recipient and the community, they also build your child’s confidence and self-esteem – while potentially improving mood.

Kimberly Burkhart, PhD is a child and adolescent psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Burkhart or any other doctor online.

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