The Basics of Manners for Kids

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In today’s modern culture, it seems that good manners are becoming a forgotten relic of the past. Civility and good behavior in general seems to be increasingly on the decline in our society. Good manners, however, are sometimes difficult to acquire once a person has become an adult. Teaching our children good manners at a young age is crucial if we want them to grow up to be adults who display good manners and proper etiquette.

According to the Child Development Institute, good manners revolve around three basic ideas: consideration, custom, and common sense. The following information discusses manners for kids that should be acquired at different ages and phases in their development. There is also a specific section on table manners since eating and social situations regarding food is such an integral part of our lives.

Begin with the Basics

Even preschool children can learn simple manners to get them started on the right foot. Three and four-year-olds should be taught not to interrupt when other people are talking. As soon as children are able to communicate, they should be taught when to use terms such as “please” and “thank you.” Teach youngsters not to take anything that doesn’t belong to them without asking permission first; not only is it a sign of good manners, but it may keep a child out of more serious trouble later. The general rule to leave things as they were found can also be instilled into relatively young children. Sharing and taking turns are a few other basic manners that children at this age should be able to learn. The Emily Post Institute explains that children not only need to be taught good manners but should be told the reasons why they’re necessary. Explaining that it is unpleasant to see people eating with their mouths open or that it may hurt someone’s feelings when we interrupt them may help kids understand why manners are important.

Preparing Children for School

Before attending school, children should learn the difference between properly respecting their elders and not doing what an adult tells them to do if they know that it is wrong. Following the instructions of adults in authority should be established early in a child’s life. Learning to differentiate between authority figures and peers, and how to interact accordingly with each, are part of learning good manners. Before going to school, children need to learn how to relate to those with disabilities. For many children, this will be the first time they see another child in a wheelchair or missing a limb. A Woman’s Health, an online health and wellness resource for women, states that elementary aged children should be able to learn proper telephone etiquette during this time. Children should know how to answer and speak politely whether it’s on a landline phone or a mobile phone.

Manners for Older Children

Once children reach the teenage years, many of the manners for kids at this age will be similar to what is expected of adults. Knowing when and how to write thank you notes and how to deal with bad news gracefully when in a public situation is important for adolescents. It’s also important to know how to respond to someone else who has received bad news. If a friend’s parent has lost a job or if there has been a death in the family, a child should not be nosy or pry for information. Not saying anything at all is usually not the best approach either. A simple and direct, “I’m sorry about what happened,” is often the best way to handle difficult situations. Learning cell phone etiquette as soon as a child is given his or her own phone is also extremely important.

Table Manners

Since so many social occasions revolve around eating, this is one of the biggest areas in which manners are important. Most children as young as four or five can learn to sit at the table for 20 or 30 minutes without wiggling or squirming. By five, kids should understand that they should wait until everyone is seated and ready to eat before they begin to eat. Some things, however, shouldn’t be expected at this young of an age. Children will still be messy at this age. Their fine motor skills have not developed well enough to expect them to eat as neatly as an adult or even an older child.

By the time children are 7 or 8-years-old they can learn to use a knife at the table. They also may be able to start passing food during dinner. Passing really large or hot dishes, however, may have to wait until they are older. At this age, they can definitely learn that having their faces buried in social media while sitting at the table is not displaying good manners. Kids with phones should be taught not to take calls at the table and to ask to be excused before taking a call. They should take important calls in another area that won’t disturb those still at the table.

Be a Good Role Model

Too many parents raise their children to have good manners when they don’t exhibit proper manners themselves. Children will follow what the adults in their lives do more closely than what they say. Manners for kids are more easily taught by displaying a good example than by simply telling children about manners. Manners and etiquette training begins in the home. This is the safe haven where children learn all their core values and develop their earliest identity. Practicing and promoting good manners must be established by the adults in the home before the children can realistically be expected to follow suit.

When in doubt about any situation kids should be taught to resort to the Golden Rule. Treating other people as they would want to be treated covers difficult situations. Teaching manners for kids boils down to treating one another with respect and courtesy.

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