Tips for starting good habits earlyWritten by Focus on the Family
What's inside this article
Judi Vankevich, known to Canadian audiences as Judi the Manners Lady, offers award-winning music and stories to inspire and equip parents and children to learn good manners. Every song is based on a Bible verse or contains a Biblical principle. Here are some of her ideas:
Put others first
One lesson my mother taught me about people was that everyone wants to feel special. She asked me to imagine that everyone I met was wearing a giant invisible heart that said, "Make me feel special!" To help children learn to remember to treat others well, I cut out giant hearts from construction paper and attach one to each child’s clothes with a safety pin. Then I talk about ways we can make others feel important. The giant heart is a wonderful visual to help children remember to be respectful and kind in their attitudes, words and actions.
Ask for forgiveness
When a child has wronged another person, no matter how small the infraction, it’s important for her to acknowledge the mistake and apologize. If at an early age a child learns to ask for forgiveness right away, she will find it easier to say, "I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?" when she’s older.
Four simple steps will help teach a young child about obeying a directive from Mom or Dad. Teach her to
- obey without delay;
- wear "happy eyes" (a good attitude) and say, "Yes, Mom," "Yes, Dad," "Yes, Ma’am" or "Yes, Sir";
- do a whole job (no sloppy or partially finished jobs);
- ask, "Is there anything else you want me to do?"
Joyful obedience at home helps a child respect teachers at school and church, other authority figures and God.
Teach your children the five elements of an awesome introduction:
- Look directly into the eyes of the other person.
- Smile and be friendly.
- Shake hands firmly (even toddlers can do this).
- Say, "Hi! It’s nice to meet you! My name is ________." Then wait for the other person to tell you his or her name.
- Have a good conversation (see point below). Shyness is not an excuse for rudeness.
Have meaningful conversation
Teach children the art of asking specific questions in their conversations, such as "What did you do at work today, Daddy?" or to a sibling, "Who did you play with today?" You can make a list together of the many generic questions that can begin good conversations. If your child asks you one of these questions, be sure to ask him questions, also.
Teach your child to demonstrate appreciation with a good attitude. Even babies and toddlers can learn to say thank you using sign language – an open hand, extending out from the chin.
Mealtime is a great time for toddlers and three-year-olds to practice. Start the meal by inviting your child to say a thank-you prayer to God. Then, whenever someone passes a dish of food to you, say, "Thank you, [name]." When family members verbalize thankfulness as they’re being served, young children catch the spirit.
Another time to teach gratefulness is when your child receives a gift. Have her draw a picture for the gift giver, and help her write "Thank You!" on the drawing. Take a photo of your child holding the present and tape it on the drawing. Then together, mail the letter.
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