Teaching Manners to Small Children

For the youngest children, kids from 2- 4, really what you're doing is training yourself to remind them of their manners. They're not going to mean "thank you" when you ask them "What do you say?" but every time you give them something you say "thank you" and pretty soon they remember…they've been trained so that when you say "here you go", they say "thank you" and eventually the meaning and gratitude will come.

Saying please and thank you are the two biggest things to concentrate on, but for table manners, try to get them to eat with a spoon or a fork, but you need to keep your expectations realistic and positive with them. Turn it all into fun and they will be so much more receptive to whatever you're trying to teach them.

A really fun thing to play is a game called "I Spy Good Manners" and it does two things. It helps the very young kids realize that they can take charge and control their own behavior, which is a new concept for them. It also gives them a chance to notice what other people are doing and to step outside of that "all about me, 2 -4 year old phase."

You tell them you're going to play "I Spy Good Manners" and everybody does the very best job that they can and other people will notice how well they're doing. So you can say "I Spy Suzy trying to eat with her spoon"…or "I Spy Jenny not talking with her mouth full"…. "I Spy Bobby saying 'please'….and everybody gets a chance to notice something good about somebody else while also showing that they can have good manners.

The idea is don't make this a lecture because that's not going to get your anywhere with preschoolers, because they really want to try to please. The best way to teach them is by keeping everything as positive as possible!