Teaching Manners to young children

You’ve probably heard from your parents or grandparents that “kids are just different these days.”

In some ways, that’s very true (there certainly weren’t tablets around 50 years ago!), but when it comes to classic manners, it shouldn’t have to be. We all want our children to be thoughtful and well-mannered. Surprisingly, teaching manners to young children can start very early! Very young children–even under a year old–can start saying the “magic words,” cleaning up after themselves, or playing nicely with others.

Here are some tips so you can begin teaching manners to your young children today:

1. “Say the magic word.”

While it may take some time for your child to learn how to sit still, eat without food getting everywhere, or clean up their own messes, they can say the “magic words:”

  • Thank you.
  • You’re welcome.
  • Excuse me.
  • I’m sorry.

If your child asks for or motions that they want something, ask them to say “please” before you give it to them. Once you do give it to them, have them say, “Thank you.” If they share a toy with a friend and receive a “thank you,” prompt them to say, “You’re welcome.” If they would like to reach for something, remind them to say, “Excuse me.” If they bump into you, a sibling, or friend, remind them also to say, “Excuse me.” If they make a mistake, hurt a friend, etc., make sure they say, “I’m sorry.”

You can also take this a step further and “act out” little skits that would require your child to say these words. If you and your child are playing with stuffed animals or figurines, have the one you’re puppeteering ask for something with a “please” or say “I’m sorry” for taking their spot.

2. Practice playing well with others.

One benefit of enrolling your child in an early education program is the opportunity for your child to get day-to-day practice playing with and interacting with other children and adults. At Imagine Early Education & Childcare, we foster a warm and caring environment best-suited for your child’s social and emotional development.

Young children need ample opportunities to play with and engage with others. This is a perfect time to ensure they’re saying the “magic words” as well as sharing, taking turns, and playing fair, and we thoughtfully help all of the children enrolled practice just these. It’s also important that your child learn to keep their hands to themselves, honor when a friend has said “no,” and not hitting or name-calling.

Further, children will need to learn to listen and speak when it’s appropriate. You can model active listening skills with your child and also ask them to look at you or the speaker while they are speaking.

In our early education program, we ensure that your child practices good manners on a daily basis, whether it be in playing kindly, saying their “magic words,” listening to their fellows and teachers, or in helping to clean up play areas.

3. Make sure to model the appropriate behavior.

We have to remember that children are very observant, so make sure that you, siblings, relatives, etc. also model manners around your child. Say “I’m sorry” if your child’s upset about not getting what something they want. Say “please” if you’d like them to hand you their dirty dish after dinner, and say “Thank you” when they do something you’ve asked.

Manners are not something that you can “do what I say, but not what I do,” so model manners both in how you treat your child, but also in how you treat others around your child.

4. Praise, praise, praise.

Children will go above and beyond to get praise, so any time your child shows good manners or says one of the “magic words,” praise them! Tell them they’re doing such a good job at being a good boy or girl or that you’re so proud you have such a well-mannered boy or girl.

You could even create a manners sticker chart. Put it on the fridge or some other place that is easily seen and every time they do something showing good manners, add a sticker to their sticker chart. When they’ve filled out the complete chart, let them pick a present, whether it be a new little toy or some sweet treat.

At Imagine, we want every child to learn the confidence necessary to engage with the world in a respectful way, and we do that too by affirming your children when they do something well.