The Three Most Important Things You Need To Know

1. Start Young — Don’t Underestimate Your Child

Raising a child in an environment that consistently models respectful communication is essential. From the moment you bring your precious cherub home from the hospital, it is important to continue to practice and/or to introduce respectful standards of communication.

Between the ages of 2 and 4 children are like sponges. “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” If children are exposed to polite behavior they will in turn mimic it. If they are exposed to abrupt, demanding behavior that too will become a staple in their day to day interactions.

Children as young as 2 years old can:

  • Greet others: “Hi, how are you.”
  • Say “please” and “thank you” with consistency
  • Excuse themselves from the table
  • Say “bless you” (a seemingly lost verbal courtesy even amongst adults)
  • Apologize when their actions (intentional or others) have caused someone else hurt
  • Open and hold the door for others

Children as young as 2 years old can also:

  • Burp at the table
  • Demand instead of request
  • Curse
  • Disregard the feelings of others, even those they love
  • Have no regard for even the simplest of social mores

Think of not only the pride your child will feel when he/she is able to mimic the polite social behavior of the grownups in his/her life, but the pride with which you will be beaming when your child says, “May I have a drink, please,” while the child at the next table screeches “Drink!” at the top of his lungs, only to hurl it at the server once presented.

2. Value Social Intelligence

Parents often tell their children “As long as you are happy that’s, all that matters.”

Since when? At whose expense?

How about we start with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When an elementary school-age child exhibits sensitive and empathic behavior, this directly coincides with positive feedback from others. He or she receives praise from teachers, compliments from the parents of her peers and respect from servers who are delighted with his or her ability to order from a menu in a polite and socially acceptable manner.

This subsequently leads to opportunity. He or she is more likely to be invited over for playdates, included in birthday parties, invited to participate in other familial, peer and community activities. The adults in his or her life are more likely to go the extra mile to provide help or support if needed.

Such inclusion, in turn sets the stage for the development of self and social confidence both of which are essential to achieving the illusive “happiness” we all so want for ourselves and our children.

Avoid sending the message to your child that happiness is a right. That will surely come at your expense, as well as that of siblings, peers, teachers and extended family members.

Rather, instill in your child that being happy is a privilege that, while not promised, can be earned through being a person of good character.

3. Encourage Others to Expect the Best from Your Child

It is important that children get the message that being kind and polite is something not only practiced while at home or within “swatting distance” of their parents, but in all environments.

Make a practice of talking honestly with grandparents, teachers, clergy and the parents of your child’s peers regarding the expectations you have for your child. No, a teacher cannot be expected to provide private lessons in etiquette at school while managing 25 other children, but they can know of what your child is capable.

These expectations can be supported, and open communication about your child’s manners can be a given. Establishing to those closest to your child that you and only you as the parent set behavioral guidelines is the soil from which mixed messages grow. Consistency is the key to any learned behavior.

Why not ask for the support of those you and your child trust in establishing the foundation of respectful behavior sure to benefit him or her for a lifetime.

Here’s to having the door held open by a 5 year old and knowing that he/she is off to a good start!

What are your thoughts on raising a respectful child? Let us know in the comments section below.