Teaching manners to kids is seriously one of the funnest things I've ever tried to do as a mom. Serious. Not because my kids are perfectly mannerly either (actually it's quite the opposite!). We've just played a few games that they think are great fun, and the manners have just kind of stuck in their minds.
(To my friends and family: if you are eating with us, and my kids act like little piggies... just know, they were taught otherwise!)
Here's what we did:
Manners Boot Camp!
1. I wrote down all of the manners that are most important to me.
Here's a copy, if you would like:
2. We talked about and practiced a few manners each night for about a week.
Sometimes I pull out a whistle, and give it to one of the kids. They are allowed to blow the whistle when they see someone breaking a manner.
Needless to say, manners are often broken on purpose :)!
3. We play the Manners game a few times each week. Here's how it goes:
(I didn't make this up, I've seen it a few times in my life... so thanks to the originator of this game whoever you are)
Everyone gets a little bowl with 5 pieces of small candy. This will be dessert, and CANNOT be eaten until after dinner and clean up.
Play while eating:
If a family member catches anyone breaking one of the manners, that person has to give the person who caught them 1 piece of their candy. (Be lenient with the littlest ones, of course, or else tears will flow!)
If someone is extraordinarily mannerly, then I will give them one of my candies- although if it were chocolate, no way!
After dinner and clean up, everyone gets to eat the remaining candies in their dish.
This makes for an easy dessert... kids love candy (which cracks me up-my kids prefer candy to key lime pie, so this game works great for them!)
We play the manners game or pull out the whistle a few times each week, and it really has worked a few miracles!
THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED:
My kids had mega problems with saying rude things like, "ew, gross!" or "I don't like this." Or making gagging noises.
I asked them how they would feel if they drew me a picture or made me something and I turned up my nose and said, "I don't like this!"
My son, who is notorious for telling me he doesn't like what I cook, said that would make him feel really bad! (He even said "really bad" twice).
I told them that is exactly how I feel when they make unkind comments about the food that I make for them.
It seemed to click for my older kids! They are much more willing to try food that I make. One day they said "thank you" (manner #6). Then after taking a bite, my son said "it may not be my favorite thing you've ever made, but I like it." Haha, melt my heart :).
We talked about how we won't like everything that we're ever served, and that's OK. We all have different taste buds, but showing respect and courtesy are what manners are all about.
Teaching our kids to have good manners is one of the most important gifts we can give them! It's free, and can even be fun :).