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Manners still matter

Posted 9/9/2016 by KIMBERLY BURKHART, PhD
Child and Adolescent Psychologist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Manners still matter

Although the term “etiquette” may not be used every day, kindness and effective social interaction are essential in developing healthy relationships. By learning good social skills at a young age, children develop socially and emotionally into respectful and kind adults. Here are 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. Like any skill, patience takes practice,” adds Kimberly Burkhart, PhD, a child and adolescent psychologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “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 him or her 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.”

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 OK, even if they are “only” digital. Set clear rules and follow up with developmentally appropriate consequences.

Disagreeing with respect. Family members and friends do not always have the same opinion. “Encourage your child to keep a positive attitude, listen to others’ thoughts and feelings, and consider others’ perspectives,” says Dr. Burkhart. “When arguments occur, listen to your child, provide support and ask whether there is anything you can do to improve the situation.” 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.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop


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