10 Etiquette Tips You Can Teach Your Kids That Will Have You Saying “Please” And “Thank You”

There is so much focus on teaching your child academically-inclined information like their ABCs and their 123s, particularly when they enter their toddler years. But what about etiquette? Good manners are something that your child should master, because it can help them not only in school, but with their friends and family as well. These 10 etiquette tips you can teach your kids are simple and will put them on a path towards social success.

1. Saying “Please” And “Thank You”

Your kiddo asks for an extra piece of chocolate. “What do you say?” you ask. “Puhweeze!” answers your little one. As adorable as it might sound, getting your child to say “please” and “thank you” is perhaps one of the most important etiquette tips you can teach your kids. “It never takes too much effort to show kindness or respect to others by saying ‘Please’ and ’Thank you’” says Bonnie Tsai, Founder & Director at Beyond Etiquette. So encourage your child to always say “thank you” when they’re given something, whether that’s pancakes for breakfast or help with homework.

2. Sending Handwritten Thank You Notes

Although it would seem so much easier to send a quick text of thanks for that toy train your child received at their birthday party, there’s something so thoughtful and personal about a handwritten note. “Emails are now the norm especially since it’s much easier and efficient; however, handwritten thank you notes add a personal touch to the sentiment you’re trying to express,” says Tsai. Even though it takes more time, encourage your child to put pen to paper and write a thank you note. If they’re too young, you can always just have them write their name or draw a picture instead.

3. Sneezing Or Coughing Into Your Elbow

Kids sure do like to say it and spray it, and that goes for coughs and sneezes, too. But people won’t be particularly thrilled if your child spreads the love (and the germs) all over them, too. Teach your child to do the “vampire cough” — have them bend their arm and put their hand up by their opposite shoulder. Then, they can cough or sneeze into their elbow, which can help them channel their inner vampire — and stop germs from spreading. Try to have them avoid sneezing into their dinner napkin (and then using it to wipe their mouth post-meal), etiquette expert Lisa Grotts says. “When you sneeze, do so in your own hankie or elbow, not the dinner table napkin,” she explains.

4. Putting Down Tech At The Table

Listen, you’re a parent, which means you probably haven’t eaten a non-interrupted meal in, like, forever. So it’s understandable that you’d toss the tech at your kid so that they can eat their mac ‘n cheese while watching a video, and you can finally eat food that hasn’t had to be warmed up three times already. Even though it’s tempting to have tech at the table, try to put it down. “Turn them off when at the dinner table or movie theatre,” says Grotts. Adds Tsai: “Putting away our electronics during meals would allow us to be present with everyone else at the table which gives us the opportunity to have deep conversations and form lasting bonds.” 

5. Don’t Point Your Finger

Your toddler is telling you a story, and they excitedly point their finger in the direction of a person that they want you to look at. Thing is, you should make it a point to teach your kid not to point their finger. “Pointing your finger at someone can come off as accusatory or transferring blame to the other person even though it’s almost like second nature to us when we’re indicating someone or something,” explains Tsai. “Instead, we can gesture with an open palm instead, it’s much more welcoming and neutral.” 

6. Make Eye Contact

Adults can be intimidating to young children. So teach them early on to learn how, when meeting new people for the first time, to look them in the eye. “Making eye contact when you’re speaking with someone is important because it shows that you respect and acknowledge them,” Tsai says. Since this skill can take some time, you might want to practice with your child so that they learn how to maintain eye contact while being introduced to someone or even during a conversation.

7. Hold The Door Open For Others

Kids can be kind of clueless when it comes to the idea of doors. After all, adults have probably always opened them for kids, which means your child might not really know how to handle a door. Show them that they should reach out to hold the door open for themselves, and when they’ve walked through it, to continue holding the door open for the person behind them. And while it used to be men that traditionally held the doors open for women, today everyone should hold a door open for others “as a gesture of kindness” says Tsai.

8. Being Punctual

Sure, it can be hard to arrive anywhere on time when you’ve got kids and missing sneakers, unsigned school papers, and a dog that still hasn’t gone out yet to pee. But, according to Tsai, “Arriving late for an appointment, date, or meeting can be perceived as rude since it’s disrespecting the other person’s time. Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes before your appointment to give yourself some flexibility if you run into traffic or any other unexpected issues.” Teach your child the importance of punctuality so that they understand time matters, both theirs and others.

9. Shake Hands Firmly

It’s not like your child is doing million-dollar deals, but they will need to know how to shake someone’s hand properly at some point. “Your child should be able to shake hands firmly versus like a wet, limp noodle,” says Grotts. Of course, you don’t want your child to clamp down on someone’s hand (or worse, start pumping their arm up and down, either). Try a few practice handshakes so your kiddo understands what “firm” really means without either of you winding up with crushed fingers.

10. Respect The Elderly

Grandparents are an absolute gift. Help your child appreciate them by explaining how important their grandparents are not just to you and your partner, but your entire family. “We often forget that the elderly has more experience and wisdom than the younger generations even though they may not have adapted to technology as quickly; however, they have witnessed different times than ours and those are precious resources we can draw from,” says Tsai. Make sure to schedule special time with Grandma and Grandpa so that your kids can build stronger bonds with the older members of the family and look forward to the special times they can share together.

Since good manners never go out of style, try to include these etiquette tips for kids into your interactions with your kiddos. Not only will they learn what’s socially acceptable (and what’s not), but they’ll also understand how utterly cool it is to sneeze like Dracula.

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