You have probably been out to a restaurant and have seen kids behaving in a decidedly unmannered way. You know the ones–elbows on the table, whining about the food, kicking the chair, getting up and running around, picking fights with siblings, yelling and crying. No one wants to be around kids like that. But, if children are never taught any better, they will never do any better. Teaching manners doesn’t have to be a punishment. You can use games to make teaching manners fun.

Table Manners

Make one night formal night. This is similar to the tea party game children play. You can do this once a week or once a month to reinforce good manners. Pull out all the stops. Everyone plays dress-up like for a tea party. You set the table formally, even if some members are still using plastic dinnerware. Serve a special meal, preferably one that your children like. Use this night to show the kids how people behave at dinner, such as how to hold their forks, how to put their napkin on their lap and how to ask for food on the table. Every time your children display good manners, they get a point. If they make it to five points, they win a prize.

Greeting People Game

Shyness is the most common reason for awkward behavior when children are confronted with adults, according to the Family Education website. Turn the idea of meeting someone new into a “find-the-hidden-picture” type of game that helps teach them how to overcome their shyness. One way to start a conversation with an adult is for the child to ask questions, as long as the questions are not too personal. Make a pretend scenario. Pretend that you are a stranger and your child is entering the room. Sit at the kitchen table. Have a tennis racket on the floor, a gift with birthday wrapping paper on the table and a picture of a dog next to you. Three obvious questions your child could ask you (the stranger) would be if you play tennis, if you are going to a birthday party and if that is your dog. The game is to see how observant your child is. He wins a small prize for each appropriate question he comes up with.

Good Sportsmanship

When children and parents display bad sportsmanship, nobody wins. Once your child understands good sportsmanship, he will realize that the real winners are the players and spectators who behave with dignity, according to the Kids Health website. Make a game by showing your children videotapes of players behaving with sportsmanship and shaking hands after a game. Show another one that has players and coaches fighting, such as a hockey game or a video of a child’s event where a fight breaks out. Give each child two different noisemakers, and tell them to sound one when they see good manners and the other for bad. Stop the tape when you hear the noisemaker and have the child explain why he used the noisemaker. Each child gets a point for each right answer. The winner gets a prize.

Manners Board Game

Make a board game about manners. Get a piece of cardboard and draw squares going around each side. In each square, write something that would be good manners or bad manners, such as “says thank you” or “burps at the table.” Roll the dice, and when you land on a bad manner, you have to go back one space. When you land on a good manner, you can go forward two spaces.

Polite Polly Says

This game is a variation of “Simon Says,” and it reinforces good manners. Your child should do what is polite and should not do what is impolite. You are Polite Polly, and when you say, “Polite Polly says to say please and thank you,” the child should say, “please and thank you,” if she thinks that is polite. If she does say it, she is correct and gets a point. If she doesn’t, she does not get a point. The opposite happens if you say something impolite, such as, “Polite Polly says to stick out your tongue.” If the child sticks out her tongue, she would not get a point, because that is impolite. If she does not stick out her tongue, she would get a point. After five points, the child gets a prize.

Ron Huxley’s Hope: Manners seem to be a lost art in our society. I can’t claim to have been the best teacher to my children but we did try to cover the basics. Overall, I am happy with the results. My hope, for parents, is that they can use the power of play to teach good manners to their children.

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