According to Emily Post, the best way to teach children rules of etiquette is to follow the golden rule of parenting: ''Always be the person you want your child to be.'' Modeling good behavior helps children learn how to behave, as does a logical approach to teaching rules according to what children experience in a typical day. Etiquette subjects for children include manners during mealtimes, behavior with siblings and friends, behavior with adults or new people, and etiquette in school.
At the Table
Children undergo developmental stages that determine what manners and rules they can manage at a given age, and this pertains to their behavior at the table. Parents should coach their children regarding how to hold and use utensils, how to use a napkin, manners in chewing and eating, and interaction with the family or others sitting at the table. Children also learn to show appreciation to the cook and appropriate etiquette for leaving the table and clearing one's place.
From the early days when children learn to talk, they quickly learn the words ''mine," ''please'' and ''thank you.'' Therefore even the youngest children can grasp the concept of showing gratitude and using kind manners when speaking to others and making a request. In this area of etiquette, parents may provide their children with set phrases and example situations, then help them practice such phrases and when they might be used.
Children of any age should learn how to behave with kindness and respect toward adults. This area of etiquette is important to teach, since children may interact easily with peers but feel shy or uncertain in the presence of adults. Again, coaching and practice phrases can be helpful to encourage children to maintain eye contact with adults, shake hands, respond to pleasantries and have a conversation. Children can learn that adults enjoy interaction with children and being made to feel special.
At school, children are expected to follow slightly different rules than at home or when in a purely social situation. In school, whether preschool or elementary school, students are expected to follow the rules of the classroom and teacher. Parents can speak with their children and remind them to respect and listen to their teachers and observe all rules even if the rules are different from home. In general, children should learn that following etiquette rules in all areas will make life go more smoothly.
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