When it comes to the behavior of young children, the subject of manners is of concern to daycare and preschool staff. In preschool and daycare centers, early childhood educators are interested in understanding what is considered acceptable behavior in public, proper table manners and other manners of etiquette. Brenda Nixon, author of Parenting Power in the Early Years answers a few questions about teaching manners to young children.
OwnADaycare: At what age is it best to begin teaching manners?
Brenda Nixon: As adults, we “teach” all the time and from the day our child comes into our life. But the more concentrated effort of teaching manners should begin before a child turns three years old and enters the preschool years.
OwnADaycare Please describe what behaviors are appropriate for children age 3-5?
Meeting and greeting others. At this age, it’s appropriate for parents and teachers to remind the child to extend her hand, look others in the face, and say, “Hello.” As a child matures, she will remember more often the social manners of greeting people, and need less reminders.
Learning acceptable public behavior – For preschoolers, acceptable public behavior includes being able to sit quietly in a restaurant and entertaining himself while the parents are eating or talking. Preschoolers can also be expected to walk in a store without running ahead of the parent, grabbing everything they see, and using their “indoor” voice.
Improving table manners – For preschoolers, table manners are better “caught” than “taught.” When parents, or the important adults in a child’s life, model appropriate table manners, such as no elbows on the table and saying, “Please pass the salt,” children eventually absorb the teaching and use these manners, too. Parents need to say, “Please” and “Thank You” in their daily conversation within the family as a natural way to teach manners.
Developing friendship skills – Around the age of three, children naturally gravitate toward same age playmates. In the preschool years, children are becoming peer-influenced and slowly, gradually pulling away from parental approval.
OwnADaycare:What tips can you give to preschool teachers so they can nip bad behavior in the bud (maintain proper decorum)?
Brenda Nixon: It’s helpful for preschool teachers to model appropriate behavior, such as using their “indoor” voice. Teachers can also take an instructional attitude with the preschooler and say something like, “We don’t say that word here,” or “You may do that at home but here we do it differently.” Children need understanding and patient teachers who will correct their inappropriate behavior, but do so in a way that encourages the child’s willingness to obey. Another skillful way to nip bad behavior with a preschool is to talk to him or her in private. Since preschoolers are becoming aware of and concerned with peers’ opinions, they can be easily embarrassed. A wise preschool teacher will confront and correct bad behavior privately, which will lead to more cooperation.
I encourage teachers to allow consequences to teach the child. For example, if a child is hitting, a teacher can step in and say something like, “I cannot allow you to hit. Since you’re hitting, you must move away from these children.” And then the teacher moves the child to another part of the room. This consequence teaches the child that inappropriate aggressive behavior results in removal from the group.
- Help Children Learn Manners in Your Daycare Part 2 Tweet Tweet When it comes to the behavior of young...
- Help Children Learn Manners in Your Daycare Tweet Tweet When it comes to the behavior of young...