Do you feel hideously inadequate around moms with calm, composed, well-mannered children (surely their kids don’t slap random strangers at a museum)? Not surprisingly, experts say modeling good behavior is key to teaching kids social graces. But if you’re already doing that and still feel like you’re failing, check out these tricks from parents whose children are (usually) little angels.
6 Secrets of Moms with Polite Kids
They Know Manners Begin At Home
Although it feels excessively Downton Abbey-ish to say “excuse me,” “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” to their husbands, baristas, nannies and neighbors, moms who are aces in this area create excellent little mimics.
They Speak To Their Kids With Respect
If you think about it, you give your kids eight million orders a day—from “Put away your Legos” to “Don’t pull your pants down in the parking lot.” Moms of Polite Offspring (herewith known as MOPOs) begin every request with a “please” and end with a “thank you.” “Children parrot these terms and understand their usefulness long before they understand their meaning,” writes parenting guru Dr. Sears. So from now on it’s, “Please don’t pull your pants down in the parking lot, thank you.”
They Never Treat Their Kid Like A Third Wheel
You may be desperate to interact with other grown-ups—say, by grabbing a quick coffee with a child-free friend—even if that means dragging your kid along. But ignore your child at your own peril. He will almost certainly act out to get your attention. Instead, MOPOs maintain physical and eye contact with their kids around other adults and make sure to include them (in age-appropriate ways) in the conversation.
They Minimize Interruptions
One mom we know shares a gentle, ingenious tip for quieting a child eager to interrupt two adults in conversation: When your kid wants your attention but you are busy, say, speaking with her pediatrician, teach her to place her hand on your wrist and wait; then you place your hand over hers to acknowledge her while you finish up your chat.
They Prep For Playdates
MOPOs have quiet talks—about sharing, cleanup time or respecting others’ personal space—on the way to playdates so it’s clear to their kids what’s expected of them. And they don’t just abandon ship as soon as things get stormy. Instead, they calmly teach their kids to apologize (“We don’t hit; hitting hurts. Please say sorry to your friend”) and hopefully leave on a high note. Bonus tip: Keeping playdates short (45 mins tops) usually keeps them sweet.
They React To Misbehavior On A Sliding Scale
One therapist-mom we know advises maintaining a hierarchy of reactions when our kids act out. Potty talk gets a casual “We don’t use potty words unless we are in the potty,” while hitting deserves a firm reprimand. MOPOs don’t let stuff slide if it would make them cringe in front of their boss, for example—but they also don’t turn every misstep into a mini crisis. MOPOs seek balance. And so should we all.