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Teaching Your Child Manners

When is it time to begin teaching manners to your child?  By what method should manners be taught?  In what order should manners be taught?  These and many other questions will be discussed in this blog.

The best way to teach manners is for the parents and others in the child’s environment to exhibit those manners consistently.  We each are, to some degree, a reflection of the behaviors that have been portrayed to us over our lifetimes.  So, it is best to start teaching your child manners from the moment of his birth.  He will not, from the moment of birth, have the capacity to understand, for example, that it is not appropriate to hit others, but his exposure to the no-hitting rule will gradually come to make sense to him.  To expose him to the rule after a period of time in which hitting was allowed will seem arbitrary and false to him.   In sum, from the time of your child’s birth, you should exhibit the manners that you wish to instill in him, and you should provide him age-appropriate information about the manners that you are instilling.

Determining what information is age-appropriate can be a judgment call.  Many experts believe that, from the moment of your child’s birth, you should be speaking to your child as if he has the capacity to understand simple concepts.  The logic behind the theory is similar to the logic used above:  your child will not, from the moment of birth, have the capacity to understand the simple concepts of the spoken word, but his exposure to the spoken word will gradually come to make sense to him.  Newborns exhibit no social missteps because of their limited interaction.  However, from the first moment that your little one grabs someone else’s toy or swats at the family dog, it is time to speak to your as-yet inarticulate child about what behavior is expected.  Your child may not quite grasp the words you are speaking, but he will understand your behaviors (your giving the toy back to its original owner, for example).  Ultimately, he will link the words you’ve spoken with your behaviors, and the meaning of your words will become more clear to him.  As your child’s social interaction develops, the opportunity for more social missteps increases.  So, a child may go from stealing a toy to failing to say thank-you to burping (intentionally) in his sister’s ear to poor sportsmanship on the soccer field.  What information is age-appropriate is, then, determine by the speed of your child’s development of social interaction.

Of all the information in this blog, the most important thing to remember when teaching your child manners is that, when there is a difference between what your child sees you do and what your child hears you say, he will usually exhibit your behaviors (despite that being in conflict with what you say is appropriate).  So, it is essential that you and your nanny or childcare provider exhibit the manners that you want your child to exhibit.

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