Q: My seven-year-old godson does not say "please" or "thank you", and does not wait his turn to speak. How should I teach him good manners and advise his parents?
A: Children learn by observing others, at home or in school.
He needs to hear courteous words being used daily.
Explain to him why it is important to be courteous and use courteous words. When we are polite, the other person is more likely to respond to our request.
Tell your godson that when he uses certain "magic" words, such as "please", "thank you" and "may I?", he is likely to get what he wants.
When he does not do so, he does not get whatever he is asking for.
Let your godson know that people like those who are well-mannered, not those who are rude.
Tell him that being courteous makes him more likeable and makes it easier for him to make friends.
As for not waiting his turn to speak, he is like many other children who interrupt a conversation because they have not learnt to restrain themselves.
It is common to hear a few children speaking simultaneously. Sometimes, they do so because they are afraid they may forget what they are going to say if they do not speak up quickly.
They could be excited and eager to share something. Or they could just want attention.
Taking turns to speak is a social skill. Teach your godson about the rules of having a conversation and that people take turns to speak and listen. Remind him that one should not interrupt a person who is speaking.
It is important to listen and show interest to what your godson is saying too. Ask him questions such as, "So what happens after that?", or comment appropriately on what he tells you.
Different children respond in different ways. See which method works best with your godson and share it with the child's parents.
Dr Khoo Kim Choo, who answered this question, is founder-director of Preschool for Multiple Intelligences.
This article was published on April 13 in The Straits Times.
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