Five-year-olds Jane and Sarah prepare a tea party in the living room. Dressed up for the event in hats and feather boas, they pass the tea and cookies politely, with plenty of "Please" and "Thank you." They delight in playing at being well-mannered young ladies.
Your kindergartners’ natural interest in manners makes this an opportune time to help your child focus on them. Manners are an important aspect of your child’s social, emotional, and moral development. An awareness of basic manners is a prerequisite for the ability to cooperate in a group (such as in school or at the dinner table).
Knowing when and how to share or how to be polite is key to your child developing a positive sense of self and the ability to make friends.
In the younger years, your child may have just imitated your polite language. Now she’s in the "why" stage — she wants to know why it’s important to say "please" and "thank you." You can help her understand by asking how she feels when someone takes something from her without asking and how she feels when the person asks politely instead. She can understand that if she doesn’t like it when people are impolite to her, then others will feel that way, too.
You might also explain that people are more likely to cooperate with her if she is polite with them. This may be harder for her to understand, but if you point it out when it’s happening, your child will begin to make the connection.
In the Long Run
Respect is essential to teaching and learning manners. Think about why you are polite. You may notice that it’s not only respect for others, but also your own sense of self-respect. Helping your child feel confident in herself will help her be more comfortable in situations where manners are needed. Plus her strong sense of self-confidence will help her be aware of the effect her manners (or lack of) have on others.
It’s important, though, not to push politeness when your child is upset. Telling her to say "thank you" when she doesn’t want to will not build manners; she’ll simply rebel. Wait for a happier time (like a tea party!) to explore the art of manners.