I have challenged this quest for good manners for many years. When I was a child, I was very rebellious and hated anything associated with manners. I believe I did that because my parents and my teachers used manners as a way to control their children and students, instead of explaining what manners meant and how we would benefit from using them.
I know many parents who still use external motivation today, repeatedly telling their kids to say “please” and “thank you” without helping them develop their own understanding and motivation. But I believe that when children know what it means to have manners and how they benefit from them, they are polite and show excellent manners naturally and effortlessly.
Kids can tell when they do something to please their parents and when they do it because they want to. After my kids have a sleepover or a party, many of their friends’ parents ask them, “What do you say to Mrs. Baras?” and the child is embarrassed and mumbles, “Thank you for having me”. This is a typical example of how parents confuse following orders (“You do what I tell you to do just because I told you to do it and I am God almighty and you’d better listen to me or else…”) with a lesson that equips children with rules of behavior that will make their life successful and happy.
Read more about how to teach your kids manners…