Have you ever been in a situation where you wished your kids were more polite? Here is how to use situational awareness to help your kids be polite when it matters most:
I have had my fair share of Really Embarrassing Responses at present openings. As in, I was embarrassed with my child’s behavior.
- A child throwing a present to the side
- Another refusing to eat a birthday cake a family member made special
- Saying a present wasn’t really what they wanted
You get the idea.
These things were both embarrassing and also excellent opportunities to teach the kids about how to respond to others’ generosity.
What's in this post...
First… model core values
Before we talk about situational awareness, we should address the matter of politeness, gratitude, and kindness.
In order for kids to behave politely in public, these values should be taught/seen at home.
Sounds simple… and the concept is. However, if the work is not done first at home, it won’t come out naturally when it counts.
Politeness will be caught on from your kids by watching you be polite. If they see it in action, they will begin to take on this character. Sure, some will more naturally be polite than others, but your own behavior is what children absorb and repeat.
- Model using polite words such as “thank you”, “please may I”, and “no, thank you” with your children daily.
- Teach your children to make eye contact when they are being spoken to.
- Set standards of politeness that you expect your kids to use at home and while out. Teach these expectations.
Pull out these fun connecting questions to share some laughs with your precious ones!
Use them at:
- meal times
- car rides
- as a “calm down” trick
- for dinner time conversation
- or any time the day is getting chaotic or
- you need a reset to connect.
Being able to show appreciation is a wonderful skill for children to have. It begins by teaching gratitude at home.
If you’re like me, gratitude is a core value that I want my family to have. I believe gratitude brings people together, is the building block for a satisfied life, and helps children grow to be successful adults.
Here are some simple ways to set your kids up to show gratitude when it counts:
- Create role play games and situations to practice gratitude expressions and words.
- Read picture books that teach gratitude.
- Model heartfelt use of the words “thank you”.
- Make gratitude lists (or pictures for the kids) together
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I believe in an inward/outward approach to teaching kindness. Let me explain: kindness can be cultivated into a child’s character through:
- Addressing behavior in the opposite spirit
- Modeling kindness
- Serving others
- Expecting thoughtful behaviors
- Help them develop kind habits based on their personality
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Teach verbal & non-verbal cues
Now… lets talk about situational awareness.
Situational awareness as a social skill
Situational awareness is a social skill and each child will learn this skill differently based on their social development and personality.
Balance letting them be expressive in their own way with how you expect them to behave in public. There are certain behaviors generally expected in public (sitting in a waiting room, not running around, for example) and we want to make sure and teach these.
Attentiveness is key.
Let me explain:
Webster defines attentiveness as: the action of paying close attention to something. I have a slightly different definition.
I teach my children this definition of attentiveness:
Attentiveness is giving worth to a person by paying attention to their words.
Some of my kids have gotten nervous around strangers so they don’t answer questions asked. I know they aren’t being “rude here” so don’t get them in trouble. I just calmly wait for them to answer or have a chat about it after.
Model body language cues
When teaching our children good manners, we can’t do it without addressing body language.
- Eye contact
- Which direction you’re facing when someone is talking to you
- Not walking away while talking (or being talked to)
Teach children to show the correct body language for what they are trying to portray. In turn, this will help them understand other’s body language.
For a child, situational awareness will happen when they are developmentally ready, understand attentiveness, and can read body language.
Help your children learn, but don’t make it heavy
Parenting isn’t so difficult when we realize that most of the things we want to teach our kids happen naturally.
Somebody smarter than me once said:
There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparations, hard work, and learning from failure.Colin Powell
Thus quote sums up perfectly the last point I’m making about how to teach children situational awareness.
First of all, children will behave better when properly prepared for the situation you’re putting them into.
For example, if it’s a Thanksgiving dinner with extended family, prepare them for the fact that they may receive some early Christmas presents.
- It allows them to mentally prepare for how they will handle their politeness
- It takes the awkward surprise away that could spin them into a meltdown
- Make sure they have been trained on how to use politeness, show gratitude, and kindness.
You want to help them feel confident and successful when put into situations. Especially when it really counts!
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