Teach Your Children Good Manners Over a Cup of Tea

young girl concentrating as she pours lemonade for a tea party

(Editor’s note: please welcome Veronica with some suggestions for teaching manners in a fun way. Thanks, Veronica!)

We all want our children to behave, especially around others. So how do we teach our little ones to behave like we want to? In my book it isn’t enough that they are not mean to others, I want them to have good manners when it comes to the little things as well. Sometimes it is difficult to instill these values in our children, either because we don’t have time to really make an effort at it or because they don’t seem to like it when we lecture them. Either way, whatever your reason, it isn’t nice when our children seem to have lost all manners.

So, how about tea for two? Having a tea party is a wonderfully fun way of teaching your children how to behave with good etiquette and manners, without lecturing them. By teaching manners through play you also have a chance to witness how they behave in certain situation and can guide them on a path more suitable. For example: how does your little man act when he gets served something he doesn’t like? Try serving him, at your pretend tea party, something you know he isn’t particularly fond of. When he sees the item of food you can then help him find a way to politely decline the item given to him, or tell him that he should taste just a little bit of it and then put it nicely to the side of the plate. More than likely, he will just go: “yuk, I don’t like this.” If this is the case you can then show him how to react in a mannered way. Or how about when you little girl picks her nose and then burps at the table, not nice manners at all and embarrassing if she were to do so when you were around others. Tell her what you think of it and that it is rude to do so around the table.

You can discuss with your children how different cultures have different manners. Kids love to hear that in some parts of the world it is considered good manners to burp after food, and then you can explain that it is not good manners in our culture. If your kids don’t get the message try the opposite way, if you are served something by your little girl, whether it is a mud cake or a real cake, just express your dislike for it. Be obnoxious and rude and don’t pay any interest to your hostess. Before you know it she’ll be upset that you don’t like her food; this is an excellent way of then telling her that this is how you feel when they make faces and tell you that your food is ‘yucky’ and that they don’t like it. You have an opportunity to explain that it can be hurtful to the person who made the food to act like that, and that there are more polite ways of telling someone that it is not your favourite food. Most of the time, in my mind, you shouldn’t say that you don’t like it. Just try the food (always try a little bit of what you are being served, that is good manners) and then put it aside if it is not to your taste.

Before starting your little tea party exercise, have an idea in your head at what you would like to try to teach your children. A checklist in your head might be a good idea. Here is a few to remember:

1. Wash your hands before sitting down at the table. Explain why you do this.
2. Remember to say please and thank you.
3. Wait your turn.
4. Share with others.
5. Be respectful.
6. Don’t burp or pass wind at the table.
7. Teach them to say sorry and how to excuse themselves.

Remember children learn from our examples; show them what good manners are rather than telling them!

Veronica Grude Docker writes for Pink Heaven, specialists in bedroom accessories, girls’ birthday presents and partyware.

Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want polite children.

Photo provided courtesy of annagarcia via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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