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10 Basic Manners for Kids

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

I am a new mom, and just wondered at what age do you teach them manners? Also, what manners do you teach exactly? My daughter is only six months old, but I'm just thinking ahead.


New Mom

Dear New Mom,

Manners are taught as soon as your child understands what you're saying. Also, children will need coaching and reminders on manners throughout their childhood. It's best to give positive reinforcement, that is, when your child does something right, let them know. When your child does something wrong, do not be negative about it, but gently tell them how it is best done and why.

Besides basic table manners (see link below), some general basic manners for kids are as follows.

10 Basic Manners for Kids

1. Waiting their turn and not interrupting other people when they are speaking. No one can be heard if there are too many voices at once. Gently tell them to wait until someone is done speaking, and then ask their question. Be sure and give your child your full attention when you are done speaking so as to reinforce the positive behavior of waiting his/her turn. While children are patiently waiting, hold their hand or put your arm around them to let them know you are aware of their presence.

2. No name calling. Even if it's in "fun," name calling hurts. Instead of labels, ask children to explain what the behavior is that bothers them.

3. Always greet someone when they come over to your house. Depending on your level of formality, you can teach your child to shake hands with adults who come over, but it's not necessary to shake hands with other children. However, your child should always say, "hello" or "hi" when someone visits so that the guest feels welcome.

4. Say, "Please" and "Thank you" often. It shows respect and appreciation. In addition, if they are thanked, then say, "You're welcome".

5. Clean up after yourself. Whether at home or at a friend's house, always pick up after yourself. It's their mess, so they need to clean it up. If children leave a mess, then remind them that they need to clean up before the next activity can begin, and stick to it.

6. Good sportsmanship. After playing a game (sports, cards, board game), no matter the outcome, be pleasant. If your child wins, tell him/her to not gloat or show off, but to be kind. If they lose, don't sulk or get mad, but be a good sport and tell the other child(ren) "good game" or speak well of them.

7. Take compliments courteously. If someone praises your children, teach them to be gracious and say, "thank you" and avoid putting themselves down or pointing out flaws.

8. Opening doors for others. When going into buildings, allow elders to go first and open the door for them. When preceding others into a building, don't let the door slam in the face of those behind, but hold the door until the person behind can grab it. Also teach your children that if someone holds the door for them, then remember to say "thank you."

9. Exiting/Entering etiquette. Elevators: allow those in the elevator to exit first before entering the elevator. Same with buildings or rooms - if someone is exiting the building or room through the same door you are entering, let them exit first.

10. Respect differences. When people do things differently from your family because of diversity in culture, race, or religion, then teach your child respect. Point out how interesting it is or how different families do different things. Families have their own traditions or rituals, and it is important and has meaning for that family.