Must-Have Manners

Dear Diary,

Have you ever witnessed kids behaving badly on the playground? I’ve spotted kids cursing, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, they knock into my children without saying excuse me or skip the line for the swings or the slide without acknowledging our presence. Often, they don’t even know they’re not minding their manners. Why? Because they never received lessons on how to act in public–or even at home. You can’t blame the kids. You can just model good behavior and hope they pick up etiquette as they pick up sticks.

And although at times, kids will just be kids and run wild, it’s never too early to teach a child how to carry themselves. Here are five manners to teach your toddlers.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Words carry a lot of meaning whether you are an adult or a child. That’s why it’s important to understand the significance of certain words at an early age. My 3 ½-year-old son already knows that “Please”, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, and “I’ll try again” will take him a long way. He has begun to understand that a lack of manners prevents him from receiving that second (or third) helping at dinner, being able to pick out the newest toy for his cars collection, or free-time on his iPad. I encouraged him to think about what he will say before he opens his mouth, because sometimes words hurt as he has unfortunately already experienced, thanks to his preschool classmates.

Keep Your Hands to Yourself

Everything you ever wanted to learn about conflict can be taught in your living room with two or more siblings! Frequent interaction with the same people, even loved ones, can drive you crazy at times. Without conflict, there would not be any growth but there are ways to positively address issues. In my house, as soon as one child feels wronged, it is easy for the other to return the “favor” by snatching a toy or hitting back. However, my husband and I try to model how to resolve conflict through listening and talking or even at times, walking away. If your child needs to blow off steam, anger is OK! Allow your child an escape. Let your child go to their room to cool off.

Wait Your Turn

In this digital world where everything is literally at our fingertips, it is important for us to teach our children that the ability to wait patiently is still a virtue. Growing up (without the Internet in my home), I was encouraged to look up new words in the dictionary or check-out a book from the library. I will pass that on to my children as well. Unless it is a medical emergency, my son knows to say “Excuse me, Mami” and wait to be acknowledged if I am talking or otherwise engaged. Now that he has been a big brother for a year, our big boy has a lot of experience with waiting while his sister teethes all over his cars and planes.

Cover Your Mouth & Nose

Sharing is an important manner and life skill to learn and practice. As the youngest twin, I shared everything from a room to secrets for 18 years. However, the one thing I wasn’t interested in sharing was my sister’s germs. She could keep her colds to herself! So, I show my kids how to cover their mouths when they cough or use a tissue when they sneeze. Surprisingly, some adults need reminders to shield their mouths and noses! I shudder each time a fellow teacher sneezes openly into the air. My students always find it interesting when I share the fact that a sneeze can travel farther than a speeding car!

Clean up After Yourself

When you make a mess, you need to clean it up. No excuses! I was always taught to leave a place better than you found it and have passed this on to my children and students. Whether it is a puzzle on the living room floor or dishes on the dining room table, we all find ourselves in opportunities where we need to clean up our messes. With a 3 ½-year-old son and 13-month-old daughter, messes are inevitable. Both of my kids do a great job at attempting to clean up after playtime and meals. And they have even started to help me with laundry!

Hey DFTM Fam–What manners are you making sure your children learn at home?

About The Author

Kerrin Meriwether
Teachable Moments Mom/Senior Editor

Kerrin is married mom raising a 2 1/2-year-old son and a 2-month-old daughter in Clarksburg, Maryland. he writes from an educator's perspective about life's teachable moments for young children. She loves being a mom, because she enjoys seeing life through her little ones' eyes. When not writing for DFTM, Kerrin teaches English Language Arts to middle school ESOL students and manages a local tutoring company, Believe in Yourself Tutoring.

One Response

  1. MJ

    Right now we are working on the concept of sharing with my two year old. She gets it sometimes but I also have to remind my husband to model the behavior he wants her to exhibit.

    Waiting her turn has been up and down since the new baby arrived. It’s only been two weeks so I understand she is adjusting but this one is super important right now.


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