4 Tips on Teaching Children Manners and Common Courtesy

March 21st, 2019 is National Common Courtesy day. I was amazed that there was actually a day for this. Even though I think that this should be an everyday thing for everyone, I know that it is not. I was amazed that when I was researching this day that everyone had such a different interpretation for what common courtesy is, but when you analyze what’s’ being said it all means the same thing.

As I look over the twenty years of teaching that I have done, I can see the decline in how common courtesy has left the teaching specifications in the classrooms. I think that we are so busy teaching everything by the book that we forget that common courtesy is taught and that parents and teachers both have to be the ones to teach our children what that looks like as well as model that in every day, real-life situations ( Which is not being done).
I also see a trend where teachers and parents both don’t think that children should be listened too but only talked to which is so not the case. If we just talk to children and not listen to them, how can we ever expect them to be able to learn manners and common courtesy because they are not able to practice it nor see it being modeled to know how to do it? I have always stuck to; you do what you would want to be done to you. If you don’t like it when someone doesn’t let you fully talk out what you are trying to say then others are not going to do the same back to you. Nor are our children going to learn the importance of turn taking and learning patience. I get after my husband all the time because he will interrupt our children while they are talking which burns me because he gets upset when they interrupt him. I just laugh and tell him that they are doing to you what you do to them because that is what they see and hear which is what they learn. He gets so mad, but then eventually he apologizes and goes on.

I think that it is crucial that we spend time daily explaining to our children manners and where we use those manners, so that common courtesy will just come naturally. I thought that this would be a great time to line out how to do that within the classroom and give you some tips on how to do that with preschool children. Here are four great tips on teaching common courtesy and manners in your classroom.

1. Teaching Magical Words. This is an area that has almost become obsolete with our children, and I know that I am bad for it too. We need to teach our children what please, thank you, and excuse me means and why we use them. Teaching them the meaning will help them understand the importance of using them, but then we as teachers also have to model it. You can do this in a theme if need be and send home a newsletter to parents explaining the meaning and why you are working on these in the classroom. Then make a graph on each word and tally how many times you hear the children say the words. It would be great to do this before you talk about magical words and then after and see if it increases. Model and have it an expectation in your classroom and see if it changes the outlook of the children as you praise them for using their good manners. This is also teaching respect and courtesy, which builds in so many other aspects for a child.

2. Teaching listening. Teaching children to listen can be one of the hardest things to teach children. However, I have found that we stress to children that they need to listen but we never really teach them how. This has become even worse with the tech generation where everyone including adults is not truly listening to other adults or children. Teaching listening takes a lot of explaining but even more modeling. Sometimes more modeling and pointing out what you are doing to help a child understand what it is going on is the best help that you can give. This is also a great tool to send to parents. They need to get back to thinking about attention and truly (Whole Body) listening. This can be a great whole group activity and then brought to a small group to do some more one on one listening with friends. When you “whole body” listen to someone you are shutting out everything else around you. You can only focus on that one person, acknowledge that you are listening to them, focus on what they are saying, repeat what they say so that they know and you know exactly what they are saying, and then have that uninterrupted conversation about that topic. If you are at a point where you cannot have that uninterrupted conversation with that child, then you need to acknowledge that child and explain to them that you are tied up at the moment and you really want to know what they have to say, but you will have to come back to them. This is going to show that child that you genuinely care about his feelings and that you respect him enough to have to put the conversation on hold. But, whatever you do make sure that you go back to him and have that conversation. They will remember if you don’t because that conversation means the world to them and that is what they are focused on. The classroom lunch table is also a great time to model listening. We all know how children love to tell you stories, and this is a grand time for them to do so. Showing them how to “Whole Body” listen by giving them your attention and having a conversation is one way to model listening, boost the child’s moral and feelings of self worth because you are listening, but also this is teaching them how to do the same with their friends and family, and patients which we all know needs to be taught with every child.

3. Being Helpful to others. Teaching children at this age how to be helpful will increase their ability to empathize with others and understand where others are coming from or why they may need help. What a better way in the classroom to do this by explaining what helping others means and looks like but then also doing a you’ve been spotted within the classroom. Take a picture of the child helping a friend and post on the wall with a saying stating Johny was spotted being a big helper by ……….. This will help every child see what that looks like and want to help their friends as well or of course the teacher. Helping a teacher or a friend increases a child’s self-worth and the ability to think responsibly which is a good feeling and will make them want to do more because they are being accepted. When you have a whole classroom of children that feel the respect and understand that they have a part within the classroom, then they take better care of not only another but the environment as well.

4. Always greeting others. Think back when you greeted someone you knew, but they didn’t great you back or looked the other way. How did that make you feel? I use to get so upset and think that people didn’t like me because they wouldn’t speak back. Now maybe that is just a southern thing because I was raised in Southern Kentucky and it was very impolite to not great a person. But, whether it was a head nod or saying hi you acknowledge that someone was in your presence.
We need to teach our children to respect others by acknowledging others and greeting them with a smile. Sometimes that may be the only smile that someone gest that day and you just made their day a little more special because of that. As a teacher, we need to explain this to our children how it is polite to greet those that we see, and it shows respect when you acknowledge them. Show them how this is done by every morning individually welcoming each child by saying hello, their name and how are you doing today? Make sure you do this every day. Show them that it is meaningful and that you are genuinely meaning the words that are coming from your mouth. Greet the parent. This is not only showing respect to the parent, but you are teaching the child as well that greeting everyone is important especially his or her parents. Also, you are showing parents that you see them and their child and that is important. As a parent, it burns me when I am not greeted when I come in the door or if my child isn’t. I have literally walked out of the classroom with my child and talked to the director because of the teacher not greeting or paying attention to my child or myself. I have sat there and had my child throw a fit because they didn’t want to stay and the teacher does nothing but talk to the other teacher. I would wait a minute then go and get her and leave. Now, if a teacher was busy taking care of a child or in a situation that would be one thing and I would assume that into consideration. But, these situations were not the case. I remember being a teacher as well and I know how sometimes this cannot always happen. I would still always greet the parent and child to let them know that I see them from a distance and let them know that I was taking care of a situation and then talk to them or tell them that I would speak to them later.

To put it in the eyes of a parent, this is the way that parents see this situation. My child is upset, and the teacher should stop her conversation and make my child feel like she is a part of the classroom and make her feel welcomed. When they are ignored how do I know as a parent that you are going to pay any attention to her at all for the rest of the day? How do I know that you even realize that she is there? These are things that parents think when they drop off their child. When I was a director, this is one of the first things that I taught my teachers. They were not doing their job if they did not greet every child and every parent that walked through that door into their classrooms.

This is a great video to show you some ways that you talk too your children about manners.