Teaching values and manners to a “terrible two” may seem like an impossible task, but it’s worth your while to persevere - your little one is absorbing the rules and standards of the world around them like a sponge. Toddlers aren’t naturally disrespectful – they’re just developing their own opinions and haven’t yet mastered the skills to disagree with you politely. Your role is to help your child grow into their own person while doing so expressing acceptable behaviour.
What values and manners are important?
Values make up the moral code of behaviour that will shape your child into the kind of person you want them to be – honest, fair, compassionate, respectful and self-disciplined. Lofty ideals for a little person who seems to think that you only exist for their benefit! So where to begin?
Treat your child with the same respect you’d like in return. Screaming and shouting at them is the parent’s version of having a tantrum – not the best way to model self-control. Using threats or bribes to get them to do your bidding encourages them to use force and manipulation to control others. Rather explain why you want them to behave a certain way and the likely consequences if they don’t. Let them know that you're truly interested in what they think and that their point of view matters. You still have the final say, but your toddler learns to be accountable for their actions and that negotiation gets better results than kicking up a fuss.
Respect extends to possessions too. Teach your little one to tidy up after themselves and take good care of their clothes, books, and toys. Ask permission before you borrow any of their things and always return them in good order. Expect the same courtesy when they use your stuff and make sure the same rules apply to siblings and playmates.
Teaching consideration for others
Your toddler has limited control over their impulses and will act without thinking about how their actions affect others. Speaking up is important, but not in a rude manner. Being selfish and bossy won’t go down well with their playmates and shouting “I hate this” when receiving an unwanted present is bad-mannered and hurtful. Teaching your toddler to put themselves in another’s shoes and be gracious when disappointed means showing them why it’s important to control whatever emotion they’re experiencing and behave in a manner that’s appropriate in that situation.
The best way for your child to learn generosity is to see it in action. Share your ice cream, offer your jacket, be glad when they beat you at Ludo. Show your toddler how good it feels when someone looks out for them. Let your little one see you give and compromise and they will follow your example.