Children enter the world as selfish human beings. They begin life totally dependent on others for food, nourishment and love. Without being taught, they know to cry when a need or want goes unmet. And unless taught, they don’t know any other way of life. It’s in the earlier years of life that a child’s character is developed, so as a parent or guardian, our role is to help them develop a godly character.
Mind Your Manners
Toddlerhood is the perfect timing in a child’s life to learn manners. They are beginning to formulate sentences and can better understand cause and effect. There are simple and easy techniques you can use to help your toddler learn basic manners. However, there is one caveat. You have to be consistent. Consistency goes a long way in shaping children’s character.
Step One – The Power of Prayer
Pray for your children. Prayer puts us in touch with divine wisdom and help. Nothing is impossible with God who knows your child better than you ever can. We are partners with God in shaping the characters of our children. Commit your child to prayer daily, asking specifically for the right method to use and words to say in teaching them to be kind, thoughtful and loving to others.
Step Two – Model the Behavior You Want
Toddlers are quicker to copy our actions than listen to our instructions. Let them hear you say please, thank you, and excuse me. Let them see you show respect to other family members and your elders. When they share something with you, tell them thank you. If you need them to do something, say please. Let them see good manners in action.
Step Three – Teach and reward good manners
When your toddler says, “I want cookies”, simply repeat their statement adding “please” to the end of it. Then ask them to repeat their request adding “please” to it. When you give them the cookies, have them repeat “thank you” as you hand the plate to them. Repetition will be key in this stage. Each time they ask for something, have them repeat the request adding the appropriate manner statement to it before they get the requested item.
Once they get familiar with what to say, you can move to the next technique of checking for understanding. For instance, when my almost 3-year-old daughter tells me, “I want music”, I simply say, “that’s nice.” To which she knows to respond with “please.” When I give her something she’s asked for and there’s silence, I gently prod her with, “now, what do you say?” and she responds with, “thank you”.
Be sure to reward your child when he/she gets it right. Make a big deal about it and praise them in front of someone else. Tell them what a big girl or boy they are for using manners. This type of recognition will motivate your toddler to continue using good manners.
Children can learn to be kind and manner-able if you commit them to prayer, model the behavior you want to see, and lovingly teach and reward them.