21-Month-Old Toddler Development: Manners
If she's like most toddlers, your kid isn't winning any etiquette awards these days. She tosses her food on the floor, grabs toys from her friends, screams and cries when she doesn't get her way. While this is all acceptable behavior for a toddler, in a few years you won't be smiling and thinking, "Isn't that cute!" when she spits her lunch out on the table. Now might not be a bad time to get started on those manners. What you're thinking: "OMG, she said 'Thank you!' Sure she meant to say 'please,' but still—we're getting somewhere!"
- It's never too early to begin to teach your toddler some basic manners. The ultimate way to get your kid to have proper etiquette is to model polite behavior yourself. If you're "gimme gimme" all the time, you can't expect your kid to magically learn to say "please." So dig deep down and bust out your inner Emily Post and your little Miss Manners will follow suit.
- As soon as your kid starts talking, you can begin to teach her to say please and thank you. In fact, it's probably a good idea to get her in the practice early, before she's formed bad habits and mortifies you when she's 13 by screaming, "Get me juice!" to your server at a restaurant!
- Try to teach your toddler to wait a sec before she interrupts someone who's speaking. If she starts talking while you are, simply say, "One moment please, Mommy is still talking," and someday she'll get the picture and learn not to interrupt.
- At this young age you can also begin to teach your kid to do nice things for others—otherwise known as "kindness manners." Model holding the door for the elderly or take her with you when you go shopping for a gift. She may (and we stress the word may) begin to learn that she isn't the sole center of the universe.
- Don't be too tough on your toddler. You can't expect a 2-year-old to be the queen of social graces just yet. In fact, we'd be impressed if your kid managed to say "please" and "thank you" just 10 percent of the time. She probably won't be ready to master most manners until she's in grade school. But you can begin to curtail her more blatant offenses like tossing her food from the table and picking her nose by reminding her again and again (and again) that these behaviors aren't OK. (Even if Daddy digs for gold every once in a while himself!)
- "How can I expect kids to have good manners if their parents don't? The parents I'm talking about are the ones who won't corral their kids, the ones who don't see—or care—that their children are being inconsiderate. Do they really think their kids' happiness takes precedence over the happiness of everyone else?"
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All kids grow and develop at different rates. So please don't compare your toddler with so-and-so's from across the street—you'll just drive yourself nuts. If you have any concerns, bring them up with your pediatrician at your kid's next checkup.