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July 24, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Your Child’s Not Rude! Manners for All Ages

No, she's not rude, but she sure can just blurt things out in front of people! A quick brush up on good manners is all that's needed — then you can just sail into the holidays!

Halloween’s around the bend and here come Thanksgiving and Christmas — ready, set, go! It’s a good idea to polish up good manners in the kids. After all, we ALL love polite kids. Polite kids come from polite parents!

TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS: Practice, practice, practice

It’s true that by age 3, a child can grasp the basics of greetings, looking at someone Mommy likes while saying, “Hello.” Your child can also learn to sit still at this age, socialize (take turns sharing) and saying other niceties like “Thank you,” “Please,” and “You’re welcome.” The big challenge with little ones is consistency, says Peggy Post, etiquette expert and coauthor of Emily Post’s The Gift of Good Manners (William Morrow; 2005). Parents have to watch for opportunities to instill good manners in their children and to work together to make it happen. Consistency will improve with practice, prompting and most importantly, modeling.

“Be realistic and age-appropriate in your expectations,” says Post. Focus on your child and explain the “why” behind each of your rules in terms he can understand, then build on each skill as he learns it. For example, once your child has mastered saying, “Hi” to a neighbor you greet, move on to saying, “Hi, Mr. Jones.”

From time to time lessons won’t go so smoothly. If your little one acts up — and he will, remember, he’s a child — gently correct him. If he grabs at the toy another child is playing with, intervene. If you’re not there and have to go to the scene, don’t scold him. Find out what happened and comfort him and tell him it’s OK. Reinforce the need for him to “use his words” and be courteous in conversation.


At ages 4 and 5, you can expect children to regularly use people’s proper names, shake hands, ask to be excused and say, “please” and “thank you.” Kindergarten-age kids can help to set and clear off a table, feed the dog, wash hands before a meal, use a napkin properly and write their name on a thank-you card. A child this age can sit at the table for 15 minutes without squirming, a little older of a child can sit a little longer, says Post.


By the time a child is 6 or 7, they should be listening to adults, particularly teachers, and following rules both at home and at school.
“By age 8, children know what’s expected and should have the basics down,” says Post. “They’ll use the magic words — please, thank you, you’re welcome — without prompting.” There will be the occasional times when you need to prompt your child — usually if he’s distracted by something — but for the most part, he should be able to carry on well with good manners.



1) Saying, “please” when asking for something.
2) Saying, “Thank you” when given something or when someone does something nice for you.
3) Not interrupting two grown-ups who are speaking together unless it is an emergency.
4) If you need someone’s attention right away, to use the words, “Excuse me.”
5) To ask permission about doing something if you have any doubt at all that it may not be OK.
6) Keep negative opinions to yourself.
7) Do not comment on someone’s appearance unless it’s to be complimentary.
8) When someone asks how you are, tell them, then ask how they are.
9) If you spend time at a friend’s house, to always thank the parents for having you over.
10) Knock on a closed door before entering.
11) When making a phone call, introduce yourself first then ask if you can speak to the person you are calling.
12) Never use foul language in front of adults.
13) Don’t call other people names.
14) Do not make fun of anyone for any reason whatsoever.
15) If you bump into someone, immediately say, “Excuse me.”
16) Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
17) Hold a door for the next person coming through>
18) When an adult you know asks for a favor, do it without grumbling.
19) Use eating utensils properly.
20) Keep a napkin on your lap and use it for food that gets on your mouth or fingers then replace it in your lap.
21) Don’t reach across the table for something, ask politely for it to be passed to you.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.