Manners 101: Raising Respectful Toddlers

March 2015

Raising well-mannered, respectful, productive members of society is the name of the parenting game, is it not? Now is the time, while they are still little, to begin instilling manners. We can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it.

You are little Susie’s parent. It’s kind of your job.

Remember, good manners (and other desirable behavioral traits) begin at home. Kids are highly impressionable and will mimic everything they see us do. So we have to set a good example! Want your littles to be polite? Show ‘em how it’s done. And never, ever allow your mood to dictate your attitude or affect your manners negatively.

When it comes to manners, I’ve found it’s helpful to start small and build progressively. Here are a few basic manners I am trying to teach my toddlers. I’ll be honest, some days are better than others. We’re still a work in progress, and that’s okay.

Manners 101: Raising Respectful Toddlers

  1. Teach them to say “please” and “thank you.” Even a toddler can understand this one. My almost three year old loves to say please, especially when she is digging through the snack drawer in the kitchen. (Goldfish are her Kryptonite.) Teach them to speak politely. You are in charge; not your toddler. Teach them to be respectful of their elders now, and they will always make a great first impression.
  2. Teach them basic table manners. We chew with our mouths closed. We don’t play with or throw our food. (This is a little tricky with my 1-year-old, but it’s something to work towards.) Use your napkin and the appropriate utensils. Wait until everyone is seated to begin eating. Ask “may I be excused” when finished, and ready to leave the table. Good table manners are a life-long necessity.
  3. Teach them to share and play nice with others. Taking turns is not optional, it’s a must. Your kiddo’s pre-school teacher will love you for this!
  4. Share toys, not germs. Cover your face when you cough or sneeze. Don’t pick your nose in public (or anyone else’s nose), and don’t wipe on your sleeve.
  5. Make eye contact when speaking and listening.
  6. Interrupting someone who is speaking is not nice – especially an adult. Wait your turn. Let others finish before you speak.
  7. Say “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” at the appropriate times. And mean it.
  8. Teach them to be thoughtful of others, to try and cheer someone up when they are feeling down. A sincere hug or kiss (with family) can go a long way!
  9. Teach them to pick up after themselves. This includes putting away dirty clothes and toys when we are done with them. No one likes a slob, and good habits are formed early!
  10. Shake hands firmly. Say “hello” to greet someone, and “goodbye” when they leave. Open doors for others. Teach them to use “sir” and “ma’am”. This is not just a Southern thing! It’s a polite thing.

Kindly remind your kiddos how they should act before walking into a potentially sticky situation (like a play date or in the carpool drop-off line for pre-school). Kindly correct them when they mess up, because they are human and they will falter. When they do something well, let them know it! I’m not advocating handing out gold stars or prizes from a treat bag every time Little Johnny says please or thank you, but a little (genuine) praise can make all the difference to a developing child.

Looking for a fun, interactive way to introduce manners to your little family? Check out this blog post from Kludgy Mom. She has some awesome ideas for teaching good manners by hosting an Etiquette Tea Party. How fun is that?

About the author…Born and raised in southeast Texas, Jessica currently lives in Billings, Montana with her husband, her two year old daughter Savannah, and their newest addition, one year old Emma Kate. Jessica graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. By day, Jessica works as a licensed Realtor, and moonlights as a freelance writer/photographer for several businesses around town.