A Beginner’s Guide to Everyday Manners

A Beginners Guide to Everyday Manners2

Everyone loves the child who says please before every request and thank you after it’s complete. But kids aren’t born knowing what’s polite and what isn’t.  One of your many jobs as a parent is to teach your children how to act in certain situations. In other words, you need to teach them some basic manners! Once your child is old enough to talk and observe the world around him or her, it’s time to start with the basics. Follow our guidelines and you’ll have the most polite kid on the block!So why is it important to teach your children manners? Teaching manners teaches kids to be considerate and respectful of others and it teaches them that there are standards for appropriate behavior in different situations. This will set them up for success as they get older and they find themselves at a friend’s house or –dare we say it–on a date!

1. Saying Please and Thank You

The very first piece of etiquette you should teach your child is to say “please” and “thank you”. Children as young as 2 years old can start practicing this one–with a little help from you of course! Even though they may not fully grasp why they’re saying these things, it’s ok–they’ll understand in time. And, it’s good to get them in the habit of starting to ask for something with “please” and finishing with “thank you”. That way they’ll eventually say these things whether you’re around to remind them or not.

2. Greeting People

Just like “please” and “thank you”, properly greeting people is something you can teach even a very young child. It’s important to teach your children that it’s polite to greet people when they arrive somewhere and to say goodbye when they’re leaving. Encourage your child to be sincere and to look people in they eye when they say hello and goodbye as well.  And while you’re at it, you may want to mention that it’s customary to shake hands when you’re meeting new people. That way they won’t be caught off guard if an adult tries to shake their hand!

3. Sharing

Along with saying “please” and “thank you,” sharing is probably one of the most commonly taught manners. Moms everywhere encourage their kids to share with their siblings and their friends from very young ages.  As your child gets older (around 2.5) you can also teach them to wait their turn. It’s not always easy for children — who are naturally impulsive at young ages — to wait for what they want, but it’s a valuable lesson to teach them that we don’t always get what we want right this second. From waiting in line at the store to waiting to hear about a job they really want, waiting is something they’ll have to do for the rest of their lives.


4. Saying Excuse me

We’re willing to bet that you’ve already taught your child to say “excuse me” if he or she burps at the dinner table. But don’t forget about using “excuse me” for interruptions and for bumping into people, too. Use real life moments to teach your child to say “excuse me”! The next time your child wants your attention even though you’re already speaking to someone else, first say “excuse me” to whomever you are speaking with and then acknowledge your child and remind him or her to say excuse me before they interrupt you. And, next time you’re in the grocery store together and you accidently crash carts with another mom, use that as a teachable moment too. Politely say “excuse me” and then continue on your way. Your kids will surely learn from watching your actions.

5. Don’t mumble

When children are in new or uncomfortable situations they may begin to mumble so as to not draw attention to themselves. But, it’s your job to tell them that mumbling can be seen as rude. Remind them that if an adult or other person can’t understand what they’re saying, they probably won’t get what they want. And, if your kids are older, you can explain to them that mumbling comes off as disrespectful and it’s best to avoid rude behavior whenever possible.

6. Knock on Closed doors

Children should be taught to respect others’ privacy and the best way to do that is to encourage them to always knock on closed doors and wait for permission before they enter. Be sure to show them the same respect: if they close they door while in the bathroom, knock before you enter!

knock on door

7. Practice good hygiene

Young children aren’t usually too concerned with personal hygiene, so these things will definitely take some time to become habits. Remind your children to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze and to wash their hands after using the bathroom. If they’re a bit older, they’ll certainly understand why it’s not polite to spread germs! If they’re not old enough to understand though, just encourage the behavior so it becomes a habit–and explain later.


8. Help Others

A major part of being polite is helping others when they are in need. From small requests like “please pass the blueberries” to bigger ones, like holding the door for an elderly person, it’s important to teach your child to help others without complaining. Explain to your child that one day he or she might be the one who needs help and they’ll surely appreciate someone who is there to help them!

9. Saying “May I”

There are many ways to encourage your children to speak politely and using “may I” instead of saying “give me” or “get me” or “can I” is another great place to start. Ready for a quick grammar lesson? “Give me” or “Get me” are commands –and it certainly isn’t polite to command someone to do something for you, which is certainly something kids can understand. Remind them they don’t like it when you command them to do something, and they’ll be on board very quickly!

The difference between “Can I” and “May I” is a bit less defined, but is there nonetheless. “Can” means something you’re able to do, while “may” is something you’re permitted to do.  So, when your kids are asking for a snack, technically they can have one, if you permit them to.  It’s probably best to save that long-winded explanation and just encourage your kids to say “may I”!

10. If you don’t have anything nice to say…

…don’t say anything at all! As children, we probably all heard that one many times! It’s especially important to teach your children to keep negative comments to themselves. As we mentioned earlier, developmentally kids are impulsive and they probably won’t think before they comment on the physical appearance of another person. While it’s certainly natural to wonder about other people, teach your child that if they have questions or comments about other people, they should ask quietly or when you’re in private. That way you won’t stomp on your child’s curiosity and you’ll be able to answer their questions fully. This is also a great opportunity to teach them that certain comments hurt other people’s feelings.


Other Tips

  • Model good behavior. Remember, kids learn by observing!
  • Be consistent so your child knows what behaviors are expected and non-negotiable. Over time these polite behaviors will become consistent.
  • Remember, to keep your expectations appropriate for your child’s age. Younger children are going to need more time to learn to do these things.
  • It takes several times of doing something for it to become a habit. So continue to encourage your child to do these basic manners and in no time they’ll be doing them on their own!
  • Be kind when you remind your child to say “please” or to share. If the goal is to be polite and kind, don’t be rude when you’re encouraging kind behavior! It’ll embarrass your child and send mixed messages.
Want more suggestions on how to raise polite kids? Check out our other Beginner’s Guide to Manners posts: At the Dinner Table, and Thank You Notes!

Photo Credits: The Quinntessential Mommy, Our Three Peas

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Krista lives in New York with her husband, their 4 year old daughter and 1 year old son. She teaches English at a local college and loves to read, shop, and cook. She enjoys blogging about motherhood at The Quinntessential Mommy. You can contact her via email, twitter or visit her blog.

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