'MANNERS tek yuh tru' di worl', the Jamaican proverb states, and it's a quality parents should seek to instill in their little ones from the earliest stage as pretty soon the things you once saw as cute at the baby stage will be frowned upon once the child becomes a preschooler.
Raising polite children starts from even before the toddler stage, and early childhood teacher Robyn Morrison shares these tips for how to be successful at it.
At this stage, before 12 months and until about two, teaching manners has a lot to do with repetition and emulating actions. While the child will still be learning the basics of what he/she needs to function in society, they can start by using “Please”, “Thank you”, “Good morning” and “Good evening” in their daily talk.
“You can use their favourite toys, YouTube programmes or books to practise, and they will learn by rote,” Morrison said. “Encourage them to use the phrases daily, and pretty soon they will be part of their vocabulary.”
Between two and three years old your child will realise that the phrases they've been practising have consequences. Thus they will attribute meaning to saying “Excuse me”, “May I”, “Sorry” and “You're welcome”, and will even use them in the right context.
“At this stage you can also begin adding more variety to what is required of them — let them help set the table, place the napkins in place, and put away the dishes they use,” Morrison said.
The kindergarten student
This child would have already known the basics and is now ready for the big league — applying the principles to his/her peers in a formal school setting.
“Not only will they be applying the concepts in actual practical settings, but they will also be socialising at the same time with peers who have both mastered the principles, or may not have been taught,” Morrison said.
This is the age cohort (three to five) that will have to be taught an expanded grasp of life skills to include sharing, playing fair, taking turns and being polite.
“From not hitting or name-calling to practising restraint, these are all values that will be taught by the caregiver and emphasised in the social setting of school,” Morrison said. “Not only that, they will also be taught social values like cleanliness, picking up after themselves, and taking care of the environment around them, to include other people and even pets.
“The fact of the matter is that polite toddlers make polite teens and then they make polite adults,” Morrison. “The Jamaican proverb 'Bend the tree from it's young' is apt here — if you want a well-mannered child, act now to tame them before things get out of control.”