“Dayntt Ewww” my 21 month old shouted after her sister gave her some food.
“Aww, you’re welcome sweet girl,” my oldest replied.
While I don’t force manners like please and thank you on my kids and let them learn at their own pace (no matter how excruciatingly slow it may be) it’s still so nice to hear little voices use kind, polite words even with each other.
Manners, after all, are polite behaviors we do that that reflect an attitude of consideration. They show thoughtfulness and respect to those around us both young and old. And our world needs more grateful, caring, and respectful people.
And it’s definitely the sweetest thing you’ll ever hear coming from a toddler.
Important manners for children to learn when they’re really young
Our family models polite words and actions for our kids and over time they learn them… through osmosis so to speak.
I once read that especially with young kids under the age of two or those on the autism spectrum, it’s important to use please at the end of a sentence as an adjective so that a child doesn’t mix up the name of the object with the request.
Therefore I have stuck with that model on top of never requiring please as a magic word.
But I do want my kids to say please and thank you eventually. It’s just not how I start teaching them manners.
I want my children to be kids that people are always pleased to see or that other know they can rely on. It’s more than just being well-behaved or easy to manage, but it’s also about raising kiddos that are kind, considerate, compassionate, empathetic, grateful, and respectful.
Whether it’s saying please and thank you or even acknowledging and saying “hi” as one walks by, there are important manners for children to know, yet many get overlooked and forgotten in our modern “me-centric” culture.
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Wait until everyone has their food to start eating
It doesn’t even matter if your family gathers around the dinner table, but the fact that they at least wait to eat with everyone else is important. And it’s a common courtesy that’s rarely taught anymore.
Depending on the meal or circumstance, we do allow our kids to eat before us, but the idea is that they don’t just dig in without saying a word or waiting for family. In our home, the rule is that eating can begin after prayer even if not everyone has food because that sets the expectation that can extend across multiple circumstances.
Whether it’s bumping into someone or politely indicating there is urgency while waiting their turn to talk, this is an important one. It only takes a second to say and over time it will be something children better understand as a polite habit.
Read more on how to manage the bossy toddler stage.
It’s a great habit to start early in kids. And honestly, we don’t enforce it enough. But swapping out the “cans” with “mays” is not only more respectful, but also the correct word choice. of asking to do something by saying, “May I.” You want them to understand that they need to ask before doing certain things. It also teaches them proper English.
Plus, it sets a precedent of asking to do something before diving into certain things. And again, it teaches them proper English.
Opening Doors for Others
Opening doors for others is such a great manner to teach. It’s also a great building block for teaching your children to do nice things for others. It can even be a baby step into working on small, random acts of kindness you do as a family for your community.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!