Q. My sister’s ten-year-old son, Travis seems to have no manners at all. “Please” and “thank you” are not part of his vocabulary, and he has great fun belching as a means of communication. My sister is being deployed by the Red Cross for three weeks, so Travis is coming to stay with me and my husband. What manners would you suggest we to teach him? How can we get him to take on some new and improved behaviors?
A. Some of the best ways to get a child to display new behaviors or to stop old behaviors include:
- Model the behaviors you want to see in a child. Open doors for others, spark polite conversation and express gratitude. Show a child how to be polite by being so yourself.
- Use a reward system such as giving stickers, points or even small amounts of money. Use a chart to help track the child’s progress toward those rewards.
- Praise the child when you see good behavior. In addition, praise the child in front of his peers and other adults.
You ask what manners are important to teach your nephew. Here are some suggestions:
- No belching around family, friends and strangers. Belching is for contests with pals.
- Acknowledge an introduction with something like, “Pleased to meet you.”
- Make eye contact when someone is speaking to you.
- Use “Please” and “Thank you.”
- Cover your mouth when you cough.
- Use good table manners: no elbows on the table, ask politely for food to be passed, chew with your mouth closed and use a napkin. Don’t forget to ask to be excused from the table.
- Take turns with others.
- Be respectful and kind. No name-calling.
- If you bump into someone, say, “Excuse me.”
- Show sympathy when someone is hurt.
There are some great resources out there to teach kids better etiquette with books, games and flashcards. “Dude That’s Rude ‘’ by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick addresses 365 manners that kids should know and use. Check your bookstore for other helpful guides.
Instilling manners in a child is challenging but it’s worth your effort. Teaching a child good manners helps a child to behave well in society.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.