Parents should be instilling good manners in their children from a young age, as soon as they are able to understand and demonstrate them. It will require that you repeat the same thing over and over (and over!) again. But the more you teach a child to always act appropriately and politely, the more likely they are to eventually do it without your prompting.
Good manners, after all, will get you far in life. Parents should reinforce proper behaviors as often as possible but also lead by example. If kids see their parents always saying please and thank you, holding open doors, and politely greeting people, they will follow suit.
So what manners should you teach your kids? Here are 10 important ones that every child should have down pat by the time they reach grade school age.
10 Please and Thank You
The most obvious and probably frequently used manners are saying your pleases and thank yous. That goes for both when kids are inside of the home and out. Want dad to pass the mashed potatoes? Make sure to say please first. Did a friend at school say something nice or share a toy with you? Make sure to say thank you.
Kids should have these phrases engrained so that whether they’re talking to a waiter at a restaurant, their teacher, or family, they know the importance of politeness.
9 Don’t Pick Your Nose
For whatever reason, kids seem to think it’s completely appropriate to start digging for gold in their nasal cavities while having a conversation. Make sure they realize that it is not OK.
Teach kids to always use a tissue should they need to get something out of their nose and blow it out. If they feel the need to reach inside, they should excuse themselves and go to the bathroom, and still use a tissue. No kid wants to be deemed the nose picker, and no parent wants to have a child that’s given this nickname!
8 Say Excuse Me After You Burp
Kids should know to keep their mouths closed and try to burp as quietly as possible. But should they let out a massive belch by accident, simply follow it up with an “excuse me.” It’s common courtesy to let others around you know that while you understand that burping is completely natural, you’re not trying to be crass.
For kids who think burping and other bodily noises are hilarious, nip that in the bud as soon as possible so they know it’s totally not OK nor funny.
7 Coughing Into Your Elbow
Germs are everywhere in schools, but kids can help curb the spread by doing simple things like coughing into their elbows. Instead of opening your mouth wide and coughing into the middle of a room or worse, right into someone’s face, turn away to the side, wrap your arm around your mouth with the inside of your elbow facing your lips, and cough.
This helps contain the germs and avoids you rudely coughing in someone’s face or into a room full of people. Especially if the cough is the result of a cold, it’s common courtesy to try and keep your germs to yourself.
6 Don’t Wipe Hands On Your Clothes
Make sure kids always have a napkin with their meals, and that they understand what it’s for: to wipe their hands or mouths as needed. Kids love to wipe their fingers down their pant legs or on their shirts which is not only bad manners but can also leave stains all over their clothing, some of which might not come out (we’re talking about you, tomato-based pasta sauce!)
Teach them to put a napkin by their plate or, when at a restaurant or formal dinner, on their laps to catch food, and use it for its intended purpose.
5 A Proper Greeting
Teach kids the beauty and value of small talk when meeting or seeing someone. If someone asks, “how are you?” Answer “I’m well, thank you. And how are you?” Make sure they don’t simply say “good” and walk away.
If you want to go further, teach them the art of small talk, like asking the person a question about their day, or how they are enjoying their dinner if they’ve asked you about yours. These small things are simpler than you think for young kids to pick up on and adopt.
4 Shaking Hands
A proper formal salutation if you meet someone for the first time, like a parent’s business colleague or old friend, is to shake hands and say hello. Having kids do this with people they meet will impress them immensely, and have you bursting with pride as the parent of a child with impeccable manners.
Of course when it comes to close friends and family, a hug is the best way to go. But for meeting people, like a trades or salesperson, learning about the important handshake will set kids up for success later in life.
3 No Elbows On The Table
Make sure that while the kids are eating, they don’t rest their elbows on the table. Not only is it bad etiquette, but it looks bad, and doesn’t allow them to eat or hold their cutlery properly.
Have them sit up straight, hands in front of their plate as they grab bites of their steak and carrots or cut into a big slice of lasagna. You might have to repeat this one a few times until kids get it, and might even find yourselves being guilty of doing it, too!
2 Hold Doors Open for Others
If the child is strong enough to open a door for themselves, they should be polite enough to look behind and keep it open if someone else is close by. Never walk out obliviously, possibly shutting the door in someone’s face.
You can practice this by having your child walk ahead of you while out shopping or at other places where there are large swing-like doors, and see that the child is polite and holds the door open for you, or if you need to remind them of their manners.
1 Respect Your Elders
Overall, kids should learn to always respect their elders. Never talk back to an elder, never be rude, and never speak or act inappropriately.
Kids will be kids, and we can’t expect them to be perfectly polite all the time. Every kid has their moments. But the more they are told to respect their elders and use proper manners, the better the chance that this concept will eventually stick. And these manners will spill over to their adult lives, where they’ll learn to respect elders, figures of authority, and people in general.