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Manners at School: What They Are and How to Develop Them?

By: Clarissa Mariano-Ligon, Ph.D.Manners at School: What They Are and How to Develop Them?

It’s back to school season once again.  Most parents have ticked off their to-do lists for getting their children ready for school – the tuition fee has been paid, the uniforms washed and ironed, and the school materials are complete and carefully labeled.  But are the children ready? Come to think of it, they spend more than half of the day in school.  Also, unlike at home where they only interact with family members and helpers, children in school have to deal with teachers, classmates, and staff personnel. 

Facing this kind of situation daily, it is crucial for our children to exhibit good manners which is defined as the treatment of other people with courtesy, respect, and politeness.  Simply put, it is the application of the golden rule that is: “Always do to others what you want others to do to you.” 

Good manners exhibited at home may not be necessarily the same as what is needed at school.  The expected behaviors vary depending on the school or teacher for that matter.  However, there are certain manners that are required regardless of the grade level or class setting.  During class and small group discussions, students are expected to listen attentively even if there are distractions around them, wait for their turn to speak no matter how excited they are to share their thoughts, and be polite when talking even if they do not agree with the person they are communicating with.  Just like a home, the classroom is a space that should be enjoyed by everyone.  Respecting other’s personal space and privacy is another manner that is expected from each student.  This is shown by asking permission to use another child’s materials and respecting his/her decision whether to let you use it or not.  Ensuring that the classroom is tidy and the equipment is in place are other ways to show respect.  During playtime, waiting for one’s turn and being mindful of others who are waiting are also essential manners needed.  It is good for the children to notice classmates who are being excluded and encourage them to join their group.   The key thought here is to be the friend they want to have

The use of good manners, whether at home or school, have lasting benefits to children.  For one, it allows them to feel good about themselves because they know that they did the right thing.  Children with good manners are also liked by teachers and classmates, which boosts their confidence to face situations they might find themselves in.  Lastly, well-mannered children grow up to become effective leaders because they know how to treat others, which how they want to be treated. 

As parents, how can we prepare our children to exhibit good manners at school?  According to a school administrator, behaviors expected from students are usually written in the school’s handbook and/or included in the parents’ orientation kit.  Teachers instruct the parents to check which items their children are able to do at the start of the school year.  This gives both the parents and the teachers an idea what the children possess and what needs to be worked on.   Teachers will work on developing these manners at school.  At home, it is good to develop them even before the start of the school year.  One thing that can be done is to find time to discuss the expected behaviors with your child and emphasize the importance of having them. Once these are clear to both you and your child, a follow-up activity can be role-playing of certain situations that can happen in school where good manners need to be exhibited. 

Another thing that can be done, which I think is the most important one, is to be a role model for your children.  According to Fred Astaire, “The hardest jobs kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.”  This is seemingly true for our children as they grow up in a society where the culture of courtesy, respect, and politeness is not as evident as before.  It is now quite difficult for them to find role models that exhibit such manners, so let us set an example as parents.  When our children are talking to us, let us listen to them attentively.  Make sure that our attention is focused on them and not glued to the television or on our smartphones.  Allow them to finish saying their thoughts and wait for our turn to speak.  Gone are the days when children are only to be seen and not heard. When is it our turn to speak, let us talk to them politely.  Refrain from using harsh words no matter how upset we are.   This goes the same when we interact with other family members, helpers, and neighbors.  Remember, actions are more important than your words.  Exhibit good manners, then watch your child follow your lead.

As many people put it, school is the children’s second home.  In order for this home to be a great place to be, good manners are essential.  Let us make sure that our children can contribute to making their school feel like their second home through possessing and exhibiting good manners.

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