If you are a caretaker or a parent of a young child, you want to ensure that the children in your care have a basic understanding of etiquette and manners. When it comes to manners, most parents are concerned with development in the areas of meeting and greeting others, public behavior, and table manners. Let’s focus on those areas for children in the age range of 3 to 5.
In terms of meeting and greeting others, development within this age range varies depending on the temperament of the child. At this age it is ok to cue the child. In other words, a child can be reminded to extend his or her hand and to greet others and say “Hi, my name is”. Children however should never be forced to shake hands or to hug or kiss people they do not feel comfortable with.
Acceptable public behavior includes being able to use indoor voices, to sit quietly in a restaurant and entertaining himself while the adults are eating or talking. Children in this age range can also be expected to walk around in public places without running ahead of the parent or grabbing everything they see. The best way to manage public behaviors is to explain what is expected of the child when they are in public. For example, you may say, “We are going to a restaurant. While we are there you are expected to wait patiently for your food and to use your indoor voice”. Manners for public behavior are still developing and children aged 3 to 5 need lots of practice in this area.
When it comes to table manners, children this age should be “caught” rather than taught. Poor table manners require both direct and indirect teaching. Basic table manners should be suggested. For example you might say, “See how we use a napkin to wipe our face so our shirt won’t get dirty?” Role modeling is the way to teach table manners indirectly. Parents should use proper table manners and say please and thank you. If children don’t see you modeling this behavior, the chances are they won’t practice them. Remember that table manners and fine motor skills are still developing at this age. Depending on the food served, children in this age range can eat with fingers when utensils are clumsy.
It is also important to remember that poor manners should not receive positive attention. Rather than lecturing or reprimanding a child for bad behavior, correct the behavior by suggesting a better way to act. Point out positive and appropriate actions to reinforce good behavior. For example you might say, “I was so pleased when we went to the doctor’s office and you sat patiently and quietly”.
Overall, role modeling is the best teacher when it comes to manners in general and is a part of the daycare job. Model good manners by being courteous to others. Offer help when appropriate, hold the door, and pick up dropped items. By demonstrating good manners everyday through your own behavior, you are naturally setting your child up for a lifetime of good manners.
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