Let’s be realistic – you’re never going to be able to get your toddler to fully understand and practice certain manners. For example, getting them to chew with their mouth closed just isn’t going to happen! However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things your toddler is ready and willing to learn.
First and foremost, it’s important to focus on teaching your toddler the idea of manners, rather than the manners themselves. They already have a general idea of what manners are, but if you can expand on what they already know, they’ll find it much easier to practice manners when they’re old enough.
So, here, we’ll focus on the best ways to teach the idea of manners to your toddler. Remember, as with everything you try to teach a toddler -patience and persistence are going to be needed!
Don’t Overwhelm Them
There’s a lot of manners you’ll want to try and teach your toddler, but it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. If you try and teach them too many manners at once, they’ll end up feeling overwhelmed. It’s simply not possible for them to remember everything you try to teach them, so be sure to stick to one manner lesson at a time.
Start with the basics such as saying “please” and “thank you”. Even if your toddler can’t talk yet, you can still teach them basic manners via sign language. Now, you don’t need to go out and learn sign language; instead you can just make up your own sign. That way, they’ll be able to start using the sign once they’ve grasped it, before they can use the words.
Other basic manners include politely greeting and saying goodbye to guests. This one may take some getting used to; especially when they’re going through a shy phase. It’s also not going to be a consistent thing! Some days your toddler will politely say hello, while others they may flat-out refuse to say it. However, if you can just focus on getting them to understand greetings, you can eventually start to expand into the “nice to meet you” phrase and more extended greetings.
Be A Good Role Model
As with anything you try to teach your children, it helps if you follow your own rules. Toddlers learn from their parents. So, if they see you being rude or not following your own guidelines, they’ll think they don’t have to either. As they say, toddlers learn more from what they see than what they hear.
Be a good role model and be sure your toddler sees you saying please and thank you. Basically, whatever you’re trying to teach them, make sure you’re showing them how it’s done.
Keep Table Manner Lessons Short
One of the most challenging manners to teach a toddler is table manners. The trouble is, many parents have unrealistic expectations of their toddler at the table. They expect a picture-perfect, enjoyable sit-down family meal. However, the truth is your toddler just isn’t capable of sitting at the dinner table for an hour. They’ll struggle with 20 minutes so if you’ve been trying to get them to sit at the table until everyone has finished, you’ve more than likely failed so far.
While a very small minority of toddlers may wait it out, most will either wiggle to get away, or throw an epic tantrum to leave the table. It’s not them being defiant, it’s simply their short attention spans.
The best way to teach table manners therefore, is to keep it short. Start out by telling them they need to sit with you for 15 minutes at the table. Then, focus on an individual lesson, such as holding and eating with, a spoon or fork.
Provide Positive Feedback
If your toddler does manage to use their manners, whether it be to say please, ask if they can leave the table politely, and hold their fork correctly, don’t forget to praise them. While you definitely don’t want to over-praise them, letting them know they’re doing something right is key to them continuing to do it.
Toddler’s feed off your praise. So, if you give them positive feedback as they do something, they’ll want to do it more often. If on the other hand, all they hear is negative statements, they’ll be less inclined to listen to you, and they definitely won’t want to carry on learning manners.
Make It Fun
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why manner lessons fail, is because they’re not exactly fun for your toddler! While older children are perfectly capable of learning things that aren’t fun, toddlers need that fun element to stay focused.
The more fun you make the lessons, the more they’ll listen and more importantly, want to learn about manners. So, how can you possibly make manner teaching fun? Well, you could get creative and create your own “manner songs”. You basically just need to write a little song which is catchy and teaches your toddler what manners are.
If you’re not very creative, why not use the sticker chart system? This reward-based system can help add excitement to the lessons. Each time your toddler does something positive, add a sticker to the chart. Once they’ve received a set number of stickers, hey can then have a treat. You’ll want to start off using a small number of stickers, then gradually increase the number required before they do get a treat.
The above are just some of the best ways to teach toddlers manners. Most importantly, you need to ensure you don’t have unrealistic expectations. There’s going to be days your toddler appears to have forgotten everything they’ve learned. However, that’s a natural toddler behavior. The lessons you teach now will stick, you just need to be persistent and patient.