We always want our children to be kind and thoughtful of others all while learning to express their own feelings. Developmentally, we also need to allow our children the space to differentiate from us, to have agency and to express displeasure to us. It can be a tricky balance and here are a few things to consider:

  • Show it. Model manners at home, as well as verbalizing an array of feelings.
  • Acts of kindness. Plan together to do something kind for someone, talk about how it feels to be giving the kindness as well how it feels to receive kindness.
  • Set up for success. “Remember our pleases and thank yous!” 
  • Positive support. Give a lot of attention when your child does something thoughtful or remembers their manners, “I love it when you bring your breakfast dishes to the sink!”
  • Talk about manners. Initiate asking your child what manners mean and why they are important; see what your child says.
  • Practice. Make up different scenarios and ponder together what to say and why, such as saying “Thank you” for a gift you don’t really like; saying “yes” to a chore you don’t want to do.
  • If your child is shy. They may not respond to greetings and goodbyes which looks like disrespectfulness, however they may just be overwhelmed. 
  • Sassiness. When your child is having a big feeling they may use a sassy tone. Invite a conversation about feelings “You sound upset/mad/disappointed, I want to hear about it”. 
  • Share daily experiences. When you are at dinner or in the car, discuss tricky situations where someone’s feelings got hurt and unpack each person’s feelings and expectation.
  • Your own childhood. Reflect on your own upbringing and your ideas about manners and respectfulness. When do you get triggered? 
  • Becoming their own person. Allow your child to express a different opinion and ask them about it. 
  • “Cool down” space. If your child’s emotions are running high, have a designated cozy apace where your child can go and cool down and then follow up with a discussion of feelings later.

Remember: Choose conversation about feelings over compliance.