Six essential manners for kids

Avoid the "brat" title and teach your kids manners now.
Avoid the "brat" title and teach your kids manners now. 

The television miniseries The Slap has been a solid ratings winner for the ABC.  Based on Christos Tsiolkas’ book of the same name, it details the relationship fallouts for a group of friends as a result of an annoying-as-all-hell kid being slapped (hard) by someone other than his parent. Never acceptable, of course, but I’m pretty sure that most of us have had to endure bratty children and have wished that they would just magically disappear from the face of the earth – or at least from our lounge room.

The thing is though – what if that misbehaving child is yours? We all believe that our own kids are fantastic, but we also all know (secretly, deep down) that there’s probably room for improvement. So if you want your child to avoid the label of “the bratty one”, then here are six essential manners that your kids need to learn.

1. Please and thankyou. They are, of course, the most basic of common courtesies and while it can be mind-numbingly tedious to keep on reminding our children to say the words, there are big benefits. “Please and thank you should be used like punctuation,” says Anna Musson, Director of The Good Manners Company. “Most sentences require these at the beginning or end - and the best way to learn this is by hearing it and requesting it from you!”

2. Saying “excuse me” before entering an adult conversation. Kids live in the moment and every new discovery – whether it’s a sudden shower of rain, a just-discovered ability to do a handstand or a dead beetle on the windowsill – needs to be broadcast to the world straight away. Other adults, though, may not view your child as the font of all wisdom. “Learning to wait before interrupting is crucial,” says Anna. It also gives kids a moment to consider whether they really do need to interrupt at all!

3. A “no loud voices inside” rule. Kids absolutely need to shout; they need to exercise their lungs. And besides, shouting can be fun! But there’s a time and place for everything and while beaches, backyards, sports ovals and parks can be great places to roar, the inside of any type of building is not a place for loud voices. Not only will this rule help make your child more readily welcomed in the homes of their friends, it will give you a much calmer living environment!

4. Speaking properly. While parents almost always understand what their own kids are trying to say, it’s not always as easy for an observer or carer. So as well as keeping the volume at a bearable pitch, it’s great if your children can construct a proper sentence from an early age as well. “One of my rules (I have many, sadly) is to refer to children as "children" not kids, to biscuits as opposed to bikkies and to dogs not doggies,” says Anna Musson. “Speaking properly is an essential skill. So my two year-old, for example, says: "I'd like some milk please Mummy". We try to ensure he does not use one word demands and that he refers to things by their proper name.”  

5. Gentle hands and sharing. No, sharing does not come naturally to our mini-masters of their own universes, but it can be taught. Likewise while rough and tumble, wrestling, running, jumping, climbing and kicking balls are all fantastic energy-burning activities, physical retaliation as a result of anger is not on. “It’s about learning that how we treat other people is important,” says Anna. And it helps to make them much better playmates!

6. People’s belongings are precious. Most kids aren’t intentionally rough, but enthusiasm and still-developing motor skills can wreak havoc on a cabinet of fine bone china (or on just about anything else, for that matter). It’s not about screeching: “don’t touch that!!!” every few minutes, but instead helping them to understand that people’s belongings are precious to them.

Ultimately, there will always be places (such as long-haul flights or classical music concerts) where your child is – well – tolerated rather than enjoyed. But laying some ground rules on basic manners will help ensure that your child is a welcome addition to after-school catch ups and backyard barbeques.