Teaching kids to have manners is often overlooked amidst all the other challenges that parents face these days. Safety, screen time, stranger danger, bullying, sibling rivalry, and staying on task at school–these issues seem to demand much more time and attention and manners may get lost in the chaos of all the other challenges you face in your parenting.
Manners may not jump out at you as the most important thing your child needs to learn, but make no mistake, kids need good social skills in order to succeed. People with manners will go further and have greater influence than people who do not.
Manners show respect. They are appreciated and noticed. And they may even open up opportunities for the person exhibiting them.
Although every family must decide what manners are important in their home, there are some manners that almost everyone agrees upon. Here is a comprehensive list, but I will highlight a few:
Say Please and Thank You. Remind them of this over and over. It will eventually become a habit for them. I always made sure my kids thanked other people too. That included thank you messages for gifts to Gramma and Grampa. I’m happy to report that our efforts were not in vain. They are all grown now and are very good at thanking us and others.
I’m sorry. Teach your child to accept blame and apologize.
Greet someone with a hello.
Use polite table manners. Not reaching, asking to have food passed, not talking with food in mouth, etc.
Ask permission before touching other people or things that are not yours.
Waiting your turn. How many times have you seen people at the check-out line cut in front of others? Someone forget to tell them that cutting is rude.
Being inclusive. Notice when someone feels left out and make sure you include them.
Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Say excuse me.
Use your inside voice.
Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Little kids will struggle with this, but they can learn to do it as they grow, understanding that it shows respect and attentiveness.
Introduce yourself to someone new.
Knock on doors that are closed.
Getting kids into the habit of using manners at a young age makes it easier as they get older. And most importantly, the place to start is by modeling these manners yourself!
Remember that your child’s impolite behavior may not be on purpose. Kids naturally don’t know that it’s impolite to interrupt, pick something up that they shouldn’t, open a closed door or take a gift without saying thank you. They need reminders to manage their impulsive behavior.
In the busy-ness of your life, it may be hard to focus on teaching children to have manners. But if you do, you will raise a thoughtful and polite child who becomes a thoughtful and polite adult.