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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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. 

Over the past 20 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?

How to Teach Manners to Toddlers and Preschoolers

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.

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.

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Manners matter

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.

Teaching kids to be polite

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 for kids 

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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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. 

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  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.

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