Some children seemingly have no manners. So how you work with these manner-less kids in a way that guides them to better manners without disrupting the whole class? Our ministry experts weigh in.
Q: What do I do about a child who seems to have no manners?
“Preschoolers need help learning basic ways of being polite, such as saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘excuse me.’ Give them reminders, and be patient as they learn. To help them develop an understanding of why we use good manners, use modeling and explain how we treat others the way we’d like to be treated. You can also encourage preschoolers to express appreciation by pointing out things we can be thankful for. Finally, praise preschoolers often when you observe them being polite and treating others with kindness. If you ‘catch’ them being polite and point it out, it both encourages them and shows them what it means to be polite.”
Gigi Schweikert is a mother of four, author of 18 books, and COO of Lightbridge Academy in New Jersey.
“It might feel easier to let a lack of manners go with your elementary kids. Maybe addressing it takes time and energy you could be using elsewhere, or maybe it’s become so common that you’re simply tired of addressing it. But elementary kids are figuring out right from wrong based on feedback and input from the authority figures around them—from people like you. So setting expectations for how kids interact with each other and their leaders is helpful. If a child consistently misses those expectations, privately provide feedback to the child about how the words or actions impact others. Simply reaffirm your expectations, and avoid guilt or shame.”
Matt Guevara is a veteran children’s and family ministry leader. He serves as the executive director of INCM, and he leads a family with four amazing kids.
“A child might regress a little bit when moving from ‘big kid’ to preteen. Bad manners aren’t uncommon at this age, even in a preteen who’s been well-mannered previously. Hormones, social anxiety, and insecurity can lead to unpleasant behaviors and awkwardness. As a church, we can make the focus a little deeper: Good manners are based in kindness and respect. When preteens are displaying bad manners, point them to the principle of treating others with kindness and respect. Instead of saying things like ‘Don’t do that!’ or ‘Don’t say that!’ ask kids to come up with kind and respectful responses. In the end, you’re teaching the principles behind good manners that they can carry into other situations.”