The other morning in our offices, we passed around an article written by a female author in a major newspaper. The article was focused on the horror she felt due to her four-year-old son, along with his male preschool classmates, being taught to be a “gentlemen” by letting the girls in the use the bathroom first at nap time.
Her gripe? Aside from a separate feminism viewpoint that we won’t address here, her main conviction was that why, in an atmosphere where sharing is the rule and taking turns the credo, would a gender-based ruling come into play.
While we threw back and forth various opinions on the topic (to chivalry should be dead, courtesies like these are no good for any gender, and it’s never to early to teach boys how to be gentlemen), we did all agree on one thing. There are age-appropriate manners and behaviors that can be taught to preschoolers without any other justification, other than because that is the way we treat other people or you treat people the way you want to be treated, as an explanation.
Here, from The List, six ideas of manners, etiquette, common courtesies (or whatever you want to call them) that are good to teach to children of that age and older.
What You Should Be Teaching Your Preschooler
1. Say Please
Rather than telling your preschooler to always remember to say please and thank you, try doing it yourself. Not only will they copy your behavior, which will become second nature to them in time, but you will actually be proving to be more polite as well.
2. Do Not Interrupt
Teaching kids to wait their turn to talk will help them develop patience. Explain to them that when you are talking to another grownup that, unless it’s urgent (and then they need to break into conversation with “Excuse me”), they need to wait until you are finished speaking to take their turn. Take the time to explain this beforehand so that when an actual situation occurs, you can say that you are having a conversation with someone at the moment and refer back to the prep conversation you had.
3. Behave at a Restaurant
There’s no reason you have to be housebound with little ones. On many occasions, you can enjoy a pleasant meal out. But be realistic: choose a spot that is kid-friendly, meaning your little one can make a peep or two, where meals come fairly quickly and there are high chairs or booster seats available, and don’t take a tired or cranky kid out. Discuss with your child beforehand about using his inside voice, using utensils and trying to be his or her neatest.
4. Social Skills
Make plenty of playdates and plan activities for your child to interact with others. This way they learn to share and take turns. It’s also a good chance to practice other skills like thanking another parent for having them over
5. Clean Up, Clean Up
Simple tasks like clearing a plate for the table or putting the day’s clothes in a laundry hamper are exercises that form into habits over time. Even young children can be reminded to take these on.
6. Keep Opinions to Yourself
Many kids tend to blurt out what is on their mind, while we, as grownups, know better. It’s a good lesson in manners to tell your kids that a friend does not need to know if they find their packed lunch gross or that the person in front of them in line has a funny mole on her face.
For more on proper manners for your preschooler, check out Poshmom.