Do manners matter? I would say a resounding YES!

For me, the one word which defines good manners, is consideration. ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

Would you ever spit in someone’s face; tell a person that they are ugly, or fat; deliberately sneeze over their food, or burp out loud? Hopefully the answer would be no, to all of the above. It would be bad mannered, inconsiderate and possibly hurtful. Manners help to smooth out the rough edges of life in every situation and make it easier for us to interact with other people.

Everyone tries to be a good parent and wants the best for their children. It’s a heavy responsibility and if you can bring up your children to be well-mannered, kind, considerate, respectful and thoughtful, you will have done them an enormous favour. They will be popular and grow up with a huge advantage.

Manners – good or bad – start at home. Children learn by watching their parents and learn by example. That said, manners also need to be taught. Once they are out of the baby stage, it’s never too early to start.

Simple table manners are a good place to begin. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are two simple expressions they will need to learn first. At this stage they will be far too young to appreciate why, but will soon accept that it is expected. Eating with their mouth closed, not stretching across other people or taking things from their plates, using cutlery, rather than their fingers, not interrupting others, not throwing food about. All of these will be absorbed by osmosis and reinforced by gentle reminders.

As your children grow, you can help them to appreciate what is going on around them – how you help them and how they can help others. All children love attention and praise. If you show that you are interested in what they do and demonstrate your approval when they do well, or are polite, they will respond and enjoy what they do.

Learning to share is something that does not come naturally to most little ones and needs to be taught. This will encourage unselfishness and consideration for others, which is central to good manners.

When they start nursery or pre-school, you will probably start inviting their new friends to your home for tea or play-dates. The ones who are already polite and well behaved will be the ones you want to ask again. Biters, kickers, screamers and food throwers are never as popular!

Nobody wants to be a nagging parent. Wherever possible, try to teach your offspring at home and not reprimand them in public (I know that this is not always possible). Praise them when they get it right and encourage them in every way possible. They want to please you… but you have to give them the right tools and set examples for them to follow.

Good manners cost nothing and are always appreciated. It’s well worth any amount of time spent on preparing your children to be valuable and popular members of society.

Ros Pearl