Follow these top tips to turn your mischievous munchkin into a courteous cutie!


As parents, we dream of having kids who are polite and gentle in nature. We harbour hopes that they will greet their elders with a smile and pepper their requests with “please” and “thank you” without being prompted. After all, your kiddo’s behaviour is proof of your parental skills, isn’t it?

While it’s true that some children might be more sensitive to the needs of others, many other’s don’t have it built in their DNA. So, it is a parent’s responsibility to nurture your brood into courteous and friendly individuals. Possessing good manners can benefit your child many ways:

*He will find it easier to make more friends. With good social graces, your child will naturally appear to be more friendly and inviting to his peers. An ill-mannered child is a turn-off for parents and kids alike.

*It’s like a lifelong habit. Once you have succeeded in teaching your pee wee about kindness to others, it is something that will stick with him throughout his life.

Your toddler will likely parrot your behaviour, so lead by example. If you don’t actively use words like “please” and “thank you”, it is unlikely your kid will, too. Similarly, if you don’t greet your parents when you see them, your child will follow suit.

Your toddler will likely parrot your behaviour so take heed and lead by example. If you don’t actively use words like “please” and “thank you”, it is unlikely your kid will, too.

There isn’t a “right age” to start schooling your peewee on good social etiquette. Instead, the sooner you start teaching them, the easier it will be for him to grasp the concept. With the Christmas holidays just around the corner, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to hone their skills, too. Here are simple strategies to help you groom your young ‘un into considerate little individuals.

1) Introduce the magic words

Your tot learns best through play, so use puppets and stuffed toys to create scenarios where they use polite phrases like, “may I”, “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. It will take a while for your child to get the hang of it, so be patient and keep trying. At 18 months, your child may be able to say the words, but won’t necessarily understand the meaning behind them until he’s about 3 years old.

2) Teach him to apologise

Guilt and shame are probably two of the strongest emotions that keep your child from admitting his mistakes. Reassure him that it is perfectly acceptable to make mistakes, but it’s more important to own up to it and apologise. Demonstrate that he should say, “excuse me” when he burps or bump into others and, “I’m sorry” when he makes a mistake or misbehaves.

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3) Teach him to not repeat mistakes

While apologising may make one seem like a reliable and honest person, remind your tyke that it only works if he doesn’t keep repeating the mistake, thinking that it can be rectified with an apology. He needs to understand that at some point saying, “I’m sorry” over and over again will make him seem like he’s just paying lip service.

4) Get him to clear the table after a meal

Instruct and guide your munchkin to bring in his plates and cutleries after meals, so as to instil the practice of clearing up after himself. Keep the cutleries and plates child-friendly; opt for light-weight plastic ones to make it easier for junior to carry them to the sink. If they are too heavy it might deter him from carrying out his chore. This same skill can also be used to teach him how to put his toys back at the end of the day and remove and place his shoes in the cabinet when he gets home.

5) Sharing and taking turns

Playdates are a great opportunity for your pre-schooler to learn to socialise independently. Encourage your child to share his toys when he’s done and take turns when playing with his peers. This teaches him that practising fairness is one way for him and his friends to enjoy activities together.

Share with him simple strategies to deal with his anger, like walking away to cool down or asking an adult for help when dealing with an unreasonable child.


6) Mind their physical aggression

If you know that your child has a tendency to get physically aggressive, it is vital you warn him before any social gathering and playdates that you will not tolerate any punching or pinching of others. If it does happen you will take him home, end of story. Make sure to follow through with your warning, otherwise junior will stop taking you seriously. Also, share with him simple strategies to deal with his anger, like walking away to cool down or asking an adult for help when dealing with an unreasonable child.

7) Hone their listening skills

Kids are naturally animated – they are loud, rowdy and super-active. This prevents them from listening to instructions. Refine their active listening skills modelling the behaviour you want to see in him. Be attentive and listen when he speaks. Maintain eye-contact and set aside any distractions. Plus, give him time to express his thoughts. At his age he has a limited vocabulary, so be very patient when he’s trying to find the right words. Interrupting him will only make him feel like you don’t value his opinions. In the event that junior interrupts you while you speak, explain that it is rude and that you made it a point to give him chance to speak freely, so now it’s his turn to do the same.

8) Make him introduce himself

This may be challenging for kids who are naturally shy around strangers. Help junior get used to the idea of introducing himself through make belief. For a start, get him to speak to his stuffed animals. Explain to him how much information he should give, like: his name, age and his hobbies.

Photos: iStock

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