Your guide to raising polite kids
In a world that is bustling with new trends every day, one thing remains that will never go out of style: having manners. Dr. Shrinal Vyas, a pediatrician with Advocate Children’s Medical Group, gives inside advice on how to raise well-mannered children from diapers to grade school.
- “Your toddler’s growing mind is a sponge to the world around them,” says Dr. Vyas. “They imitate what they see, so be sure to display polite speech and behavior on a daily basis.”
- Even before little ones can speak, encourage waving in greeting. As they mature, incorporate the use of “hello” and “goodbye” as well as “please” and “thank you”. Although they may not always remember or want to be polite, praise them when they make the effort.
- Have your toddler sit at the table when eating, even if it’s just a snack. Practice staying seated for 10 to 15 minutes at meal times throughout the day.
- Familiarize your son or daughter with dining utensils by age three. Begin enforcing basic etiquette such as washing hands before dinner, using a napkin to wipe their mouth, chewing with their mouth closed, swallowing before speaking and waiting until everyone is served (or when given the okay) to start eating. Practice one or two manners at a time and avoid being too insistent; they will learn with time.
- Introduce your youngster to saying, “excuse me” after burping, passing gas or when trying to get someone’s attention. Also encourage them to expand their use of “thank you”. For example, they can thank friends and friends’ parents for visiting after a playdate.
- Teach them kindness. This means taking turns, not grabbing or hitting other children (or adults) and saying sorry if they hurt someone. “When apologizing, teach your son or daughter to specify what they are apologizing for and to think of ways to make up for their behavior, such as giving back a toy or sharing one of their own,” says Dr. Vyas.
- By age five, kids are more confident in social environments. When speaking to adults, however, they may shy away. Help your kindergartener make eye contact, introduce themselves and respond when spoken to. One clever way to do this is by playing the memory game: ask your kid to try to remember the eye colors and names of adults they greet and see which of you can memorize the most about each person.
- Most five and six-year-old children understand it is impolite to interrupt when others are speaking. Have your kindergartener come up with fun cues to use when either of you are interrupting. This can be a dramatic eyebrow raise, a gentle tug on your earlobe or “zipping” your lips closed.
- Although making and receiving phone calls may seem outdated in the age of texting, knowing these basic skills is still highly beneficial. Introduce your seven or eight-year-old to answering the phone with a simple, upbeat “hello” followed by, “May I ask who is calling?” If the caller asks to speak with an adult and one is not available, teach them to say, “They’re not available right now. May I take a message?”
- Encourage kids to start cutting their own food. With an adult present, have them practice using a knife and fork to slice sandwiches, pasta or small portions of meat.
“Engaging in simple, daily etiquette techniques can help your child become well-mannered and develop the social skills necessary to feel confident and thrive in the world around them,” says Dr. Vyas.
About the Author
Efua Richardson, health enews contributor, is a senior at Lewis University studying public relations & advertising. In the future, she hopes to work in entertainment, namely in the music industry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, scrolling through Instagram and trying new ethnic dishes. Among her talents is the ability to move her kneecaps in tune to music and wiggle her nose.