Be Pleasant in Stores and on the Telephone
"Whether we're at a retail shop or watching TV, all around us we see examples of bad manners," says Kay West, the Nashville-based author of How to Raise a Lady and How to Raise a Gentleman. "It's your responsibility to teach your children that politeness is easy and fast and should be part of every transaction between human beings." A friendly attitude and basic good manners teach kids about taking turns, being considerate, and listening. What's more, when your child sees how warmly people respond, he'll soon come to realize that he can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The valuable lesson learned: When you behave nicely, you get what you want and feel better too.
Handle Setbacks With Patience
This is a tough one, as anyone who has been stuck in traffic or experienced airport delays can attest. But being adaptable is one of the most crucial behavior lessons kids can learn -- not to mention that seeing a parent blow his top can be upsetting, says Dr. Ramey. When that happens, a child may feel afraid and wonder, "Will my dad do this to me when he's angry?" If you do slip for a moment and lose your temper, Dr. Ramey says, you can immediately apologize to your child and say, "I didn't mean to act that way. I wish I had done things differently." You can also stress that your child isn't to blame for your anger. As a result, your child will learn that it's good to apologize, and she'll take note that you're working to gain control of your emotions.
Catch Your Child Being Good
A compliment can be music to anyone's ears, especially a child's. ("You were so patient when we had to wait for a table.") And don't stop there. You can point out when the protagonist in a book or on TV is being helpful and ask your child how rude characters should have behaved. You can also give him opportunities to practice good behavior outside the immediate family, Dr. Ramey says. For example, encourage him to hold the door open for an elderly person, or rehearse with him how he should greet guests at a party.
Respect Your Child's Need for Attention
Many kids "lose it" in public after repeated attempts to get a response from an oblivious parent. That doesn't mean you should always stop what you're doing to tend to your child. "A child learns to be patient by being asked to wait until you're ready to give her your attention," says Dr. Smith. ("I do want to see your project. I'll be able to really look at it after I've finished my conversation.") But children have a much easier time waiting if you acknowledge them right away and consistently keep your promises. It also shows respect -- an important concept you want her to learn and use in her interactions with others.
Ultimately, remember that you are the one with the ability to make the greatest impact on your child's behavior, even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way. And that's great news. As Dr. Smith says, "You're going to be numero uno in your child's eyes no matter how many other people come into his life."
Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the April 2002 issue of Child magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.