What has happened to manners these days? Many parents feel their kids are too young to learn to be polite, but I say it's never too early to teach manners to kids. The earlier you start, the more effective you'll be!

How to Teach Manners to Toddlers and Preschoolers

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Are you worried about your child growing up and not respecting others? It is crucial to teach manners to your children from an early age to help them learn to respect everyone and treat everyone kindly. Here is your guide on how to teach your child manners from an early age! It’s a step in helping your child make friends too.

What has happened to manners these days? You might feel their kids are too young to learn to be polite, but it's never too early to teach manners to kids. 

How to Teach Your Children Manners from an Early Age

Over the past 27 years of childcare, I have steadily seen manners disappearing. It’s amazing to say I can even see in 1 and 2-year-olds manners are becoming less and less a priority for our society. Back talking and defiance are obviously bad manners, but there is so much more to it than that. What can childcare providers and parents do to teach manners and change this trend?

At what age should you start teaching kids about manners?

You can start teaching your children manners as soon as they can talk. Some parents even start teaching “please” and “thank you” with sign language to babies to help them communicate before they can speak. It is never too early to start teaching your children about manners.

What are the best manners to start teaching your child at a young age?

Most of the manners can be taught right from the start, but here are the most common ones.

Please and Thank You

Even babies can learn how to say please and thank you. These are the first two manners to teach your child. If you use sign language, you can teach these words as early as 6 months.

Say Excuse Me

This is usually the second type of manner to teach your kids. When kids are a few years old and can talk more, teach them to say excuse me when they bump into someone, and so on.

Smile and Be Thankful

Children can learn to be thankful for anything and everything and can start as young as toddlers. You can start a practice where you say one thing you are thankful for each and every night. They might say the same thing each time, but they will eventually learn the principle.

Eye contact

When children are older and can focus more, try teaching them to look you in the eyes when they talk to you and when you talk to them. This is a sign of respect in some cultures, but not in others. Even if you don’t practice this manner, teach that some cultures do so your children are aware.

Kind to Others

This should be taught all throughout your child’s life. While they will struggle and not understand entirely as toddlers, this is a major lesson you will teach throughout life. Don’t punish them when they are young, but teach the principle and slowly go from there.

Sportsmanship

When your children are older, teach them how to be a good sport. While you can teach this to toddlers, it probably won’t stick with them. Mention it every now and again, but try to enforce it more when they are in school.

How to Teach Kids Manners

If you struggle with knowing how to teach manners, here are nine effective ways to begin with your children!

1.   Start Young

The younger you start, the easier it is for them to grasp. That’s because they won’t know otherwise if you always practice manners with them. However, this does not mean you are screwed if you have older kids.

You can still teach manners at any age. The older your kids are, the longer it will take to teach manners. But you can do it! Stay consistent and never give up. They will eventually learn their manners, and you’ll be grateful you started when you did.

2.   Lead by Example

One of the most effective ways to teach manners to children is through your example. If they see you not using your manners, they won’t either. Always make sure you say please and thank you no matter what.

Modeling good manners is the number one way to teach kids how to behave. If they see us saying please and thank you, they are much more likely to follow suit and do it too. Children learn what they live. Make sure what you see in your reflection in them is something you want to see them doing.

3.   Praise Good Manners

When your child uses their manners, make sure to praise them. When you first begin teaching, praise every single time. Then as they slowly begin to learn, you don’t have to praise them every single time.

4.   Role Play

Another effective way to help teach your children manners is through role play. This does work better with older children as they understand more and can really get into it. Pick a scenario that you want them to work on. If it is saying “thank you,” maybe create a spa day or grocery store set up where they receive things and need to say thank you in return. Model the behavior and then have them repeat it.

5.   Age Appropriate

You cannot expect your children to use manners if they aren’t developmentally there yet. Yes, we all want respect from our children, but our toddlers don’t understand completely what that means. While you can encourage and practice it as much as possible, you cannot get upset when they don’t understand. When this happens, you can encourage but forcing it will not make any difference.

6.   Playdate

Lots of manners begin with others. So, have a playdate! This will help children learn how to communicate and be kind to others, share, and have sportsmanship. When problems arise during the playdate, wait before fixing them. This will help kids problem-solve and work things out on their own.

7.   Lots of Rest

Children need plenty of sleep. When they are well-rested, they are happier and will use their manners. It is a lot harder to teach a tired and angry child something than one who is calm and rested. Make sure they take their naps and get a full night of sleep!

8.   Give Your Child Respect

If you want respect, give your child respect first. While they do not always treat you the way you want to be treated, they still deserve your respect, especially when they are older. They will quickly notice the change and will start to respect you as well.

9.   Don’t Force It

You cannot force your children to use their manners. The more you try to enforce it, the less they will actually want to try to be kind. Instead, simply encourage it to the best of your ability, and then relax. Do your best, and that is all that matters!

Hopefully, these tips will help you successfully teach your children manners. Be as consistent as possible, and don’t give up. Your children will eventually learn and use their manners, and you will be so glad you taught them when you did!

Teaching manners to toddlers

Children will many times say to me I don’t want that on my plate, or that’s yucky. No one here is allowed to say those things.

I know everyone won’t like everything I make, that’s okay. But who wants their child to go to a friend’s house for a playdate and tell their friend’s mom her food is yucky? I teach the kids to just leave it and not say anything. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. You don’t have to be rude.

Parents may think it’s no big deal at home, but behavior is the same at home as it is at a friend’s house. We say if you don’t like it, don’t eat it, but don’t talk about it.

Teaching manners to preschoolers

At Little Sprouts, we sit at the table to eat and stay at the table during a meal until everyone is finished. I’m sure you’ve been at a restaurant and seen a child crawling all over the floor or running through the building. This is distracting for other customers and kind of gross too. It’s a great time to teach manners.

Children should be taught to sit down with their food and eat with everyone else. When they are done, they can sit at the table and write on paper or something quiet until everyone is ready to leave.

A table and a plate are meant to hold food and catch the crumbs, and food is meant to stay in that area. A couch should not be a crumb catcher, yuck!

When kids say I want some more, I remind them when we want something we say please may I have some instead of demanding. As kids are growing we ask them, do you want some more, so if we don’t show them how to politely ask for something, they will repeat that back to us because it’s what we’ve always said to them. I think we forget to teach manners to kids.

Manners for kids

Let’s talk about gifts. It’s not cute for children to beg for presents. It’s hard for kids not to get overly excited about receiving. We need to remind them it is better to give than receive.

After a child asks me several times if I am giving them a gift, I tell them anyone who asks for one doesn’t get one and it’s not nice to ask. They won’t know if we don’t explain it to them.

Doing activities with the kids for others such as baking cookies for the neighbors or making cards for soldiers is a great way to show kids how much fun it is to do for others. You can show your own excitement and talk about how fun it will be to give them.

When having a child give a gift to someone, remind them giving a gift is special and they should be excited. Look the person in the eye and hand them the gift with a smile. Show them how to say, we made this for you because you are special by modeling it.

When giving a gift to a child, make sure to remind them to look you in the eye and say thank you so they will do the same when others give them gifts. It’s difficult to remember how you let them treat you is how they will treat others, but we need to keep it in mind in order to raise grateful, polite children. Teaching manners to kids will help them later in life too.

Etiquette classes might be taking it a bit too far, but you sure can teach kids a lot by just modeling and being consistent with what you expect from them. 

Teach children giving eye contact and answering when spoken to is appropriate behavior. If you spend any time with today’s teenagers, you can clearly see this art is becoming quickly lost. We need to keep these things in mind to change the trend taking place.

We are molding these kids. No one is born being polite, they have to be taught. It takes all of us to make a difference in this world. Don’t give up or get tired of doing what is good. We are influencing the future.

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7 Comments

  1. I teach manners to my little ones and often find myself teaching those same manners to their parents. Many times these children don’t have manners because their parents were not taught any.