It’s hard to know how polite a child of 4-7 should actually be. After all, it seems like typical little-kid behaviour to jump up from the dinner table the second she’s eaten her dinner, or to forget to say thanks when a family friend comes over and brings her an unexpected present.
In preschool and on the playground, taking turns, sharing, and being friendly to others is the law of the land.
Making it Happen: Point out other people exhibiting the behaviours you’d like to see in your kid, says Jodi Stoner, Ph.D., a clinical psychotherapist and coauthor of Good Manners Are Contagious. If you make your child aware of others doing sweet deeds, he’ll begin to identify with the actions you’re showing him.
Kids this age are still possessive, so encouraging your child to share may be difficult. It can take time for him to understand that he may feel uncomfortable while someone else plays with his toy, so be enthusiastic when your kid offers a toy to someone or gives her a turn on his scooter.
Say Please and Thank You
Using “magic words” may seem like just a routine to your child, but these niceties make others feel good.
Making it Happen: Be a role model. “Kids love to imitate” says Roberta Golinkoff, Ph.D., professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware in Newark. But she’ll learn to use please and thank you in everyday conversations even faster when you praise her and react quickly to her polite requests and responses.
You’re on the phone with a friend and you feel a tug on your free hand. As you know, when your child wants attention, he often insists on having it right now. But your child is old enough to be patient and occupy himself for a brief period of time, and it’s fine to have him wait.
Making it Happen: Explain that when you’re talking to someone else, it’s not okay to interrupt unless it’s critical (someone is hurt or he has to go to the toilet). For any other less-important intrusions, firmly tell him, then follow through when you’re done with the call by thanking him for being patient and giving him your undivided attention.
Although kids often hide their eyes from strangers, saying hello and goodbye — and answering a simple question — are essential.
Making it Happen: Rather than merely coaxing a simple ‘hello’ from your child, challenge her to tell you some detail about the person too, suggests Judi Vankevich, a children’s entertainer and recording artist better known as Judi The Manners Lady. You might say, “Can you see what colour Mrs. Smith’s eyes are?” This will help her learn to look adults in the eye.
Once your child has mastered a proper “hello,” perhaps move on to a handshake. Start by teaching her the difference between a weak “dead-fish” handshake and a nice, firm one, says Vankevich. Then practice introductions at home — perhaps by pretending to be different characters or friends.
Need some help?
All of the stories within the Bobby & Morph Collection feature an important moral, but you can also investigate further with a copy of Bobby & Morph Find Their Happy Place and Meet Sonny – which teaches all about being comfortable and confident in your own skin, and Bobby & Morph Help the Mayor with the Magic Scarf – explaining the importance of having good manners.