As a parent myself, I want the best for my child.  I want her to be happy, healthy and have all her dreams become reality. 

As a martial arts school owner I also want that for all my students.  Of the many things we teach in our Danbury CT area martial arts school, the character skill for this coming month is one of my very favorites.

One of the foundational skills, that is just so important in life, is manners.  The simple ability to say things like ‘Thank you, please, excuse me, I’m sorry’, is often times, sadly lacking in society today.

This skill requires and builds upon many other character skills.  Empathy, the ability to put oneself in other people’s shoes, needs to exist in order to nurture manners.  People must learn the character trait self control and respect to build manners.

How many times per day do you find yourself thinking about someone ‘How rude’?  Lack of manners seems to becoming the norm these days.

We live in a technological and fast paced world where we are becoming increasingly disconnected, pardon the pun, from the very society in which we live.  Face to face contact is becoming a thing of the past as text messaging becomes our basic mechanism of communication. 

We have to be especially careful to teach these fundamentally human character traits so as literally not to evolve into some kind of mechanical information aged artificial life form.  I think I am starting to sound like my parents.

Here are 5 sure fire ways to teach your child to develop those old fashioned manners. They really never do go out of style.  Just out of practice.

1:  Setup a communication standard.  This is simply how you expect your child to address people.

At my martial arts school, we have a built in method for teaching manners. It all begins with our communication standard. 

All students immediately understand how they are to address instructors by Mr. or Mrs. Last name.  They also answer all questions by saying yes or no sir or ma’am.

At home, how do your children speak to your friends, relatives, strangers?  How do they speak to you?  Try having them address all people by last name.  Explain why this is good manners.

2:  Create a phone script.  Allow your child to answer the phone.  Kids love to be able to do this.  Makes them feel like a grown up.

Plot out a script of what they must say.  Here’s an example:

“Hello this is Hannah, who may I say is calling please?”

What happens next could be “My parents are currently busy may I take a number where they can call you back?” or “Please hold while I get my parents.”

Role play this and make sure they have it down before you let them get started.  Learning by doing is much more powerful than just being told to do it.

3:  Make a manners log.  This is a log where each day everyone in the family writes down what they did to show good manners today.

We call ours the ‘Random Acts of Manners’ list.  It turns into a fun game the entire family participates in. 

Set a goal and turn it into a contest for getting to a certain amount of good manners logged in for the end of the week or month.  If the goal gets hit, maybe the family does a movie night or goes to the kids favorite restaurant. 

Kids love challenges.  There doesn’t even need to be a prize.  Just the idea that there is a goal to hit will have your kids looking for opportunities to show good manners.

4:  Do stuff together.  The more time we spend with our kids, the bigger influence we’ll have on them.

Look for things they do that show good manners and point it out.  Be a good finder and help them to be one too!

When they do something showing bad manners, ask them how they can show better manners. 

As we teach this in the martial arts school through our character education program called Powerful Words, we explain, expect but don’t lecture.  We explain our expectations and then allow them to rise to the occasion.

5: Be the change in the world you want to see.  This is the hardest part by all means. 

This simply means that you have to walk the walk.  Children most certainly learn more from our actions than they do by our words.  You must be the example to your child.

If your behavior is incongruent with the desired behavior, any lesson you teach is undermined.  You cannot teach kids to do as I say not as I do.  They will build norms and values based EXACTLY on what they SEE you do and do not.

We constantly must be mindful about everything we say and do in front of kids.  If I scream at a telemarketer and hang up on them, what lesson did I just teach my daughter?  If I become irate when someone cuts me off on the highway and yell obscenities at the other driver, what will my child learn.

Practice these five methods for building better manners and you will see your children’s manners blossom.

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