Toddlers aren’t always polite. In fact, once your baby grows up a little and becomes an opinionated toddler with a personality of his own, there will be times when you will feel uncomfortable and embarrassed by some of the things he says.
Asking you why the man in the supermarket is so fat, or why the woman in the street is in a wheelchair is your toddlers way of discovering the world around him: but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any less embarrassed when it happens! Excitable toddlers are also prone to snatching, raising their voices, and forgetting to say please and thank you. But don’t worry. If you follow these simple tips, you’ll find it’s easy to teach your toddler to be polite:
Demonstrate good manners yourself
Your toddler learns everything from you, so it stands to reason that if they see you getting ill tempered or forgetting your good manners they will replicate this behaviour. This means you have to get into the habit of watching what you say and how you behave, even when you’re frustrated: easier said than done! It’s also important not to argue with your partner in front of your toddler. Toddlers naturally raise their voices, and by arguing in front of them, you are teaching them that raised voices are the best way to get what you want.
Another thing to try and nip in the bud sooner rather than later is any swearing or cursing in your house. If your toddler hears words you’d rather they didn’t say, it’s likely that they will quickly pick them up. Definitely not what you want to hear your little one say in the street or at their nursery group!
Get everyone involved
Anyone who has regular contact with your toddler such as their grandparents, should be kept informed of what lessons you are trying to teach them. If, for example, you are trying to ensure they always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ make sure the grandparents emphasise this lesson whenever your toddler spends time with them too.
Nursery staff and those working in other early years jobs that have regular contact with your little one will be used to dealing with these situations. Again, let them know what messages you are trying to impart, and ask them to reinforce this. If everyone in your toddlers’ life is reinforcing the same message then your toddler will quickly learn that good manners are standard behaviour that everyone, including them, should adopt.
Say hello and wave goodbye
Often toddlers are naturally shy, and will hide behind you when the time comes to meet new people. However being able to meet and greet new people is an important part of having good manners. Your toddler should be able to say ‘hello’ when he meets a friend or relative, and tell new people, especially other children, his name.
Praise him when he does this without prompting, and remind him why his behaviour is so important. For example ‘Thank you for being so polite, that’s the best way to make new friends’. However don’t reinforce good manners with gifts or treats: you want your toddler to learn that good manners are a normal social convention, not an easy way to earn a reward.
Adopting good manners isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. Like all new lessons, it may take your toddler a little while to get used to these new rules. And toddlers are learning so much every day that they don’t always retain everything they are told. Be patient. Be prepared to gently remind him to use his manners every time he forgets, and expect him to forget frequently!
Tor Brierley is a freelance writer who has written for Yahoo, Nursery World Jobs, and gurgle magazine.