Teaching Children Kindness

Manners

Our lives are getting busier, we are working longer hours and our children participate in more and more extracurricular activities. It is important that we teach our children to the principles of kindness to assist them with the many interactions they will have throughout their lives. .

Kindness is also equated with good manners. As mother and author Ita Buttrose states, ‘Good manners give a person increased self-confidence and the ability to be at ease in most situations. Good manners mean being kind and thoughtful to others, making allowances for their shortcomings, and being considerate about their feelings.’

Being polite and considerate are important characteristics to have. They help our interactions to be more pleasant and assist us to achieve goals. Teaching children kindness from an early age is a skill set they can grow and develop into teen-hood and beyond

Starting in the home

Our homes are a place where children can develop a great foundation of kindness. Nona Melnick, Early Childhood Teacher said, ‘Children as young as 18 months can learn the fundamentals about manners by being taught to say “please” and “thank you” when appropriate, even if they do not understand the reasons for being polite’.

Examples are led by parents and other important adults in a child’s life. Children absorb what they observe. Starting at the dinner table, for example, parents can display appropriate behaviour by not placing their elbows on the table and asking politely for something they require such as, ‘Please pass the sugar’. By using repetition at dinner each night, children will then learn the way their families  would like them to speak and interact in that setting.

Developing kindness

Over time and as children mature, they will need less reminding or prompts by adults. As they develop they will begin to have an understanding and use courteous behaviours for different situations, for example, what to say when they meet a new person for the first time and how to answer the phone politely. Remember to acknowledge children when they are respectful: take notice and give positive feedback, they will repeat that good behaviour.

Social interaction and sharing

Pleasant interactions are essential for children (and adults alike) in the acceptance of gifts, food and drink and party invitations, just to name a few. Appreciation and gratitude are excellent qualities to possess and it is these qualities that are valued in many cultures. Children feel good about themselves when they express appreciation for something that is given to them or when someone does something for them. They start to recognise that other children or adults are going out of their way to do something for them.

In the home setting and through play-based learning at childcare, experiences can be linked to the Early Years Learning Framework, in particular Outcome One: Children have a strong sense of identity and children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect.

Persistence

These things take time. Behavioural changes can take a while to become routine and they probably won’t take effect overnight. Especially if they are being introduced into the family’s routine, but with repetition and calm reminding this will produce excellent results. Ask your child to repeat their request, if it is not asked in a polite manner, effort is required to make the child realise how they should have asked or responded. Repeat until it becomes habit for your family to speak and interact politely.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, it has been a pleasure. 

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