You know you need to teach your kids the basics, like their ABCs and how to read, but it’s also important to teach them basic manners. There are rules of etiquette that everyone needs to know, but proper habits don’t just happen out of nowhere; they need to be taught in childhood. So what are the most important, basic etiquette lessons to teach your kids? Well, we’re glad you asked. Here are 15 manners that every child needs to know.
The very first rule of etiquette anyone should learn is to say “please” when asking someone for something. “Please” is one of those magical phrases that makes anyone seem more polite, and it shows basic respect and courtesy toward those around you.
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The second rule of etiquette any child should know is to say “thank you” often. When someone does something for you, no matter how small or big, an acknowledgment is a simple, kind gesture. It’s also important to teach your kid to send thank you notes for larger gestures and gifts.
Nobody can do whatever they want all the time, and this definitely includes children. Making sure that your kids know to ask an adult before they go outside to play, leave the dinner table or take a cookie from the cookie jar is one way to make sure that they have the foundation for knowing how to be a polite person.
It’s important for kids to learn how to respect others, and that starts with respecting the adults in their lives. If two adults are talking, teach your child not to interrupt them. Instead, they should wait for a pause in their conversation and say “excuse me.” Should your child also call elders “ma’am” and “sir”? That depends on your region and culture, and is one of the many etiquette questions even adults have.
The golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is one of the best life lessons we’ve learned from our parents, and it’s applicable to all children. Children should know how to include their classmates in schoolyard games, how to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others and how to be a nice person in general. Living by this golden rule is one of the many ways to be a better friend.
Teach your kids the habits of positive people. Teaching them not to speak negatively towards others, to look on the bright side of things and to champion those around them will make your already amazing kids grow up to be amazing adults.
It’s important that kids know how to behave at the dinner table. These lessons are doubly important to enforce when dining out at restaurants. When in public, be sure your children know not to cause a fuss, as that is one surefire way to annoy your servers and fellow diners. Children should learn not to reach over the table to grab the casserole dish, how to use a napkin to gently wipe their mouths (and where a napkin belongs while eating) and, of course, not to chew with their mouth open or speak with their mouths full. Now that we think about it, a lot of grown-ups need to know what dining etiquette mistakes to avoid as well.
There are a lot of habits that children have that are gross, and that includes sneezing and coughing without covering their mouths. Teaching them to do just that will instantly make your kids more polite. It’s also important to emphasize regular handwashing, bathing and toothbrushing.
We’re not saying that your kids need to be neat freaks, but the most polite people know that it’s important to leave a place in better shape than they found it and clean up after themselves. If you’re picnicking in the park, be sure to pick up all your trash (and then some). If your kids are staying over at a friend’s for a sleepover, make sure they know not to leave the kitchen a mess when they go for a midnight snack.
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Knowing when you have done something wrong isn’t always easy, and admitting it can be even harder. Teach your kids to know when and how to apologize to others, especially when they have done something purposefully hurtful.
A little-known rule of etiquette even you may be breaking? Pointing at others. In most of the world, it’s considered rude to point at someone (or even point in any direction in general). Instead, teach your kids to gently gesture in the direction they are speaking of. Kids also have a tendency to stare at others, especially those who may be different than them. This can lead to some uncomfortable situations, so be sure your kid knows this habit may make others feel bad.
Kids love to just barge in on people and ask whatever it is that they please. Teaching your kids to respect other people’s privacy, boundaries and personal space is important. Make sure they know to knock on doors (and wait for an answer) before entering a room and to know what questions are actually rude.
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Being positive and treating others well doesn’t end with just being nice when it is convenient. It’s also important to teach kids how to help others. This can be anything, from small acts of kindness (such as holding open a door for someone behind them) to stepping up when somebody is having a tough time.
The top rude habit even adults have: Using electronic devices at the dinner table or while in the presence of others. Instill good habits in your kids at a young age, and teach them to sit at a meal, in a movie theater or in other quiet social situations without being constantly distracted by screens. Making sure that you’re actually giving those you’re with proper attention is one of the top old etiquette rules we need to bring back.
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