What is the Montessori approach to teaching manners? Most manners can be taught through Grace and Courtesy lessons at home and in the classroom. We don't teach manners to have quiet and obedient children. We teach manners to promote friendship, respect, family values, citizenship, and social cohesion.
We can teach children about manners through:
- Lessons/Demonstrations - this can be serious or fun and silly. We can role-play situations. Both the adult and child can act out what to do, and what not to do. In Montessori schools, children are taught how to carry and push in their chair quietly, how to interrupt others and how to ask to join a game.
- Knowing the exact words to use - children are learning how to act in social situations, we can help by giving them the exact words to use in situations, such as "May I join your game?" when wanting to play with others, "Can I have one cupcake please?", when ordering in a cafe. My older children also benefit from knowing exactly what to say in some tricky situations.
- Role Modelling - role model the behavior we want to see in our children. We can be careful and considered in our approach and behaviors inside and outside the home. Think about how we use our manners and how we speak to others and remember that our children look up to us as an example to follow.
- Absorbing it from the environment - we don't have control over what happens outside our home but keep in mind our children will pick up behaviors from those around them including from classmates, siblings, friends, and from others in the playground.
- Reminding and prompting - I only do this occasionally and when necessary, or when the child has had a continuted problem, this can happen in advance or in the moment "remember to use a quiet voice in the library", we do this subtly with the child, not out loud in order to shame or embarrass the child.
- Being prepared in advance - I only do this when I expect the child isn't prepared for a situation for example going somewhere there is going to be a long line, or going into a store when I know it is busy, or perhaps just before friends are due to arrive. We can remind the child and give them a bit of notice "remember to offer your friend a drink when she arrives, she might also want to know where she can put her coat and shoes". But keep it age-appropriate and realistic.
Our children aren't perfect, we don't expect them to be. We don't force manners but you will find with years of practice (and good role modeling) your child will have a really solid understanding of manners.
Lessons that have been of interest to our family in the last six months or so with a three-year-old:
- knocking on a friend's front door - we knock twice and then wait, we do not constantly knock until they open the door.
- mealtime - eating with our mouth closed and not talking while eating, using a cloth napkin to wipe our mouth, wiping up our own spills, offering others a drink when pouring our own drink at the dining table "would anyone else like a drink?".
- staying left on a path - on walkways or on riding tacks while out walking, on a scooter, balance bike, trike. Also passing others slowly and with care or giving way to someone on a bike, trike, or scooter. (I'm not sure if staying to the left is a custom in all countries).
- welcoming guests - greeting people at the door, offering guests a drink or snack, showing guests where the bathroom is.
- knocking on closed doors before entering - knock on siblings' doors before entering, knock on the bathroom door if it is closed before entering. This respects privacy, personal space and protects the concentration of others especially during periods of homeschooling.
- visiting a book store - handling and looking at books in a book store compared to looking and reading books in a library.
- visiting a library - includes being careful and respectful with books, using a quiet voice, talking to the librarian, waiting in line to check out books, sharing a lift to our library.
- answering questions - in public places, people often ask my child what is his name is or how old he is. We can teach our child not to respond if they are not comfortable, how to clearly say their name to teachers and to new friends. We can also teach our children how to introduce themselves to new teachers or to new friends.
- social distancing - keeping space between others when in public spaces, also using hand sanitiser in stores/library/public offices like the Doctor and Dentist.
- how to offer help - offer help to a friend to carry things, hold things, pick things up a friend has dropped, generally identify when a friend needs help and how to step in.
Other areas of grace and courtesy that we can teach and support at around three years:
- personal hygiene - cough into our elbow, sneeze into a tissue, wipe our nose, dispose of used tissues, washing hands after coughing, going to the toilet, and before eating.
- asking to join a game or activity - with siblings, in the playground, we use words like "May I join the game?". We may also need to help the child if the answer is a 'no' and understand to respect others' wishes to play alone.
- move quietly indoors - especially if people are working, walk quietly, push in our chair quietly.
- talking on the telephone/facetime/zoom - including answering the phone, asking people how they are, saying goodbye, using a clear voice.
- ordering in a store - or cafe/market, perhaps even paying for items and waiting for change.
- request help from an adult - for example, a teacher, guide, librarian, store attendant. "Excuse me, can you help with this? ".
- standing in line - at school or out in the community, including taking our place, not pushing ahead, being patient.
- apologizing - learning to apologize when the child has accidentally bumped into someone, or accidentally broken something. Remember we don't force a "sorry", but role-playing and role modeling can be important for the child to know how to act and express remorse or empathy when there has been an accident.
- hanging up coats and backpacks - at home and at school, also consider taking your shoes off when visiting others.
There really are a lot more areas we could cover. Be aware of Grace and Courtesy lessons that your child may receive at (Montessori) school as we can practice and reinforce these at home.
If you have a younger child you might like to read Notes to a Montessori Parent - Remember Grace and Courtesy for the Under Two's.
Sydney, Australia is currently in an extended lockdown. All of these images were taken pre-lockdown and we are complying with all stay-at-home orders.