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How to teach your toddler some tact

A little diplomacy goes a long way with these quick tips

Posted: 13 January 2012
by Fiona McKim

Lead by example
Toddlers are renowned for their sponge-like ability to soak up the words, actions and behaviour they witness and then test it out on others. Try to avoid talking negatively about other people or using insulting language in front of your child; treating people with respect and politeness can help to stress the importance of manners to her as well as yourself. 

Teach positive vocabulary
After she learns how to express herself through language, the world suddenly opens up for your child and she will feel excited about using her new tools. Take advantage of this by teaching your toddler lots of polite words and phrases such as “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me”. Try using lots of positive, complimentary terms about people, places and things to arm your child with an arsenal of flattering adjectives that she can try out on friends and family. 

Explain how others feel
Often young children find it difficult to think about the consequences of their words and actions outside of their own feelings. The next time your exuberant toddler loudly exclaims that your tall next door neighbour is “a hairy giant” or tells your best friend she looks like “a witch”, gently explain that sometimes our words make people sad and that although differences make us special, she may not be happy if people always pointed out what is unique about the way she looks.

Don’t expect perfection
Never punish your child for speaking out of turn or saying something a little too close to the bone. Whilst diplomacy is a a valuable skill, it is also a learning process and it is very unrealistic to expect a very young child to know the right thing to say in an awkward situation, particularly as most adults still find this a difficult line to tread. Lavish praise on your child for using polite words and don’t worry if she puts her foot in it now and again. Honesty is the best policy after all. 

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