Role-Playing to Teach "Manners?"

Dear Dr. Laura,

I did some role playing with my five year old to help him understand how to properly speak to adults with respect when he has a differing point of view. I hope it helps him. He seemed to enjoy the game and I think it helped him make a connection. Any suggestions for other activities that would help him make this connection through play?

What a great idea! I agree that play is often the best way to help children learn "manners."

The other way they learn, of course, is through the way they are treated. Then they automatically treat others that way. So all kids need to learn to express their needs, feelings and differing opinions to others without attacking the other person. This is an ongoing learning that we help children with from the time they are toddlers, and that we model. So you can use each time that your son disagrees, or that you disagree, as an opportunity to model how to disagree respectfully. And so that he doesn't resist it, you can "play" with it.

So for instance, you might say "Hmm....your dad thinks we should go to the park this afternoon. I disagree, I want to go to the pool. How do you think I should tell your dad that? Should I do it like this? (Shouting in a silly way) 'NO!! YOU"RE WRONG! WE SHOULD GO TO THE POOL!' ONLY THE POOL!!' Or should I say "I hear you want to go to the park. I would rather go to the pool because we always have fun there, and it looks like it might rain. Can we consider the pool?"

But of course, you are doing this in a silly enough way to get your child laughing at the idea of shouting your opinion and making the other person wrong, so he begins to notice when he has the impulse to do a version of that.

AHA! Parenting Magazine
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