When it comes to learning about manners in grade school, parents are the number one resource. Your second grader can't pluck politeness from the ether. You need to set the stage.
Cindy Post Senning, great-granddaughter of manners maven Emily Post, has written several books on manners for children, including The Gift of Good Manners: A Parent's Guide to Raising Respectful, Kind, Considerate Children (HarperResource, 2002). She says etiquette isn't just about good posture and hygiene, it's about treating others with respect and consideration. These important lessons should follow a child's developmental timeline, just like the three R's. As your second grader gains strength in Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic, she's also grasping hold of the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. How do you build on your child's newfound social awareness? Here's what every parent should teach their second grader as foundations for etiquette:
Teach Values: Tradition is a great way to teach your second grader about family values, according to Post. For example, making place cards for every guest at holiday meals is a fun and memorable tradition that plants the seeds for being a great host.
Groom R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The best way to teach respect is to give it, Post says. If you want your son to learn to knock before going into the bathroom, you should give him the same consideration.
Work on Communication: Just because your child can read on his own, doesn't mean you should stop reading with him. Post says reading builds social skills, creates bonds, and shows that you care. “It's a common thread and a shared interaction,” she says.
Encourage Table Manners: Fast food restaurants have served their purpose in teaching children the basics of ordering food and eating in public. It's time to move on. Now that your child's attention span is longer, he can endure a sit-down meal at a family restaurant. Remind your child of the procedure on the way there: everyone will get a menu, the waiter or waitress will take the order, and no one leaves the table until the meal is finished. A small drawing pad and colored pens are a good way to keep children entertained while waiting for the meal (just make sure they know they will be put away when the meal arrives.)
Go Out-and-About: When going for play-dates, your second grader should be reminded that he is a guest in someone's house. As such, he should say thank you often and help pick up toys.
Post underlines that in all these areas, parents need to follow the Golden Rule themselves: be the person you want your children to be. It's one thing to set standards at home, and another to hold yourself to them. So scoot your chair in and bust out those pleases and thank yous. Your kids are watching.