Good manners do not come naturally to children (or adults!), but they are a necessary part of living in society. Not only are children with them more pleasant to be around, but it will also make their life easier as an adult. And yet while most people agree that there are manners every kid should know, they just don’t. But you can fix that.
Set your child up for success by starting to practice good etiquette early — and don’t hesitate to nag them gently until those good behaviors become second nature. And always lead by example!
Here are twelve good manners every child should know by the time he or she turns 10.
1. Say “Please” and “Thank You”
“Please” and “thank you” should be among the first words that your child learns. Practice relentlessly: Whether it is for a toy or a service, remind your child to ask politely and thank whoever did them a favor.
2. How to Greet Someone
Not only should your children say “hello” and “goodbye,” they should also be able to greet someone by looking them in the eyes and introducing themselves if needed. If your child is not comfortable with greeting someone, even a relative, with a kiss or hug, they should still know how to offer a firm handshake.
3. Good Table Manners
Good table manners make any meal, either inside or outside of the home, a lot more pleasant. Practice every day as a family how to use utensils, wipe your mouth with a napkin, eat with your mouth closed, and ask politely to pass the food they want over the table.
4. Write Thank You Notes
Thank you notes might be a dying art, but the gift giver always appreciates them. Don’t treat these as a chore — make them into a fun art project. Let your child personalize them with stickers and drawing to encourage them to write thank you letters for each present they receive.
5. Be Kind
This is more than just helping out someone in need. It can also be about having a kind character — not calling people names or commenting negatively on someone’s appearance. Encourage your child not partake in this bad habit, and to avoid people who behave negatively.
6. Say “Excuse Me” When Bumping Into Someone (and other things)
“Excuse Me” is one of those “magic words” your child should learn from the get-go. Besides being used when bumping into someone, it’s polite before entering an existing conversation, or when passing gas. (You know what we’re talking about here.)
7. Cover Your Mouth When You Cough
Not covering their mouth with the cough is not only rude, it can also be unhealthy. If we’ve learned anything during the time of COVID it’s that coughing without covering the mouth is dangerous. Teach your child to cough in his or her elbow to avoid spreading germs, and about good hygiene in general.
8. Apologize When Needed
Apologizing can be tough, even for grown-ups. Take the time to teach your child empathy and how to offer a sincere apology. This is usually best done by encouraging them to express their regrets for something specific, rather than as a vague excuse.
It’s vital that they understand why the person they’re apologizing to is hurt, and how things can turn around for the positive after saying something as simple as, “I’m sorry.”
9. Don’t Interrupt Grown Ups
Waiting for your turn to speak is not easy, but children should learn not to interrupt their peers or adults when they are talking. If they must do so, teach them to say, “Excuse me.” (See lesson #6, above.)
10. Hold the Door for Those Behind You
This isn’t a gender-specific rule anymore. Boys and girls alike should hold the door for whoever is coming behind them, especially if that person is holding something bulky or has difficulties moving.