Three ways to improve your toddler’s manners

Toddlers can say the sweetest things, the most outlandish things – and things that could be considered rude. Such moments can make parents feel awkward, and maybe not know how to respond.

So how can you help teach good manners to your toddler? And what should you do when your toddler’s actions are rude?

Jade Elliott spoke with Dr. Peter Lindgren, a pediatrician with Intermountain Healthcare about improving your toddler’s manners.

“Good manners in the early years often start with children behaving in appropriate ways, such as kindness to others, sharing, or taking turns,” said Dr.  Lindgren. “Modeling these behaviors, and giving children the right kind of attention and reinforcement, help to build these behaviors in young children.”

Here are three ways you can help improve your child’s behaviors and manners, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

1. Model good manners. Point out good manners among adults. Example: “Daddy is sharing his treat with mommy. Good job, sharing, Daddy!”

“Children watch everyone around them, including siblings and especially, parents. So as parents, you’re in a great position to show them the behaviors you’d like them to adopt, and help them practice good manners,” Dr. Lindgren said.

Use manners in your interactions with your children and others. When giving your child directions, remember to use “please” and “thank you.”

2. Give children positive attention throughout the day. Parents can start by gently touching the child in a loving way. The AAP recommends parents give children at least 50 brief, loving touches every day, as simple as a touch on the shoulder or the back.

Another way to show positive attention is to spend quality time with children – if even a few minutes at a time.

This could be in reading a book together, or playing with your child when you return home from work. Let the child guide the play, and comment on what they’re doing, such as “You’re working hard to color that picture!” You can also use the opportunity to praise them for putting their crayons back in the box when finished.

3. Reinforce positive behaviors. Pay attention when your child is behaving, and remove attention when she’s misbehaving (except in cases when the behaviors are dangerous or will result in harm), according to the AAP.

“Often, when kids are quiet or behaving, we don’t give them much attention – until they misbehave. And rude behavior often gets adults’ attention very quickly,” Dr. Lindgren said. “But paying attention only to misbehavior can create more misbehavior.”

Pay special attention to your child when he’s behaving, and praise a specific action. For example, you might say, “Great job listening the first time” or “Good job waiting patiently for your turn” to reinforce these behaviors.

“This is a habit parents can build, and start to build at any time,” Dr. Lindgren says. “The more you practice, the better you’ll be at noticing and praising positive behavior.”

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.