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Common Courtesy for Kids

Updated on November 26, 2015

Common Courtesy for Kids – Six Basic Principles

At times it seems as though common courtesy has gone by the wayside. In this day and age it’s rare to get the small pleasantries once considered to be common place. I’m talking about the basic manners and courtesy that seems to be lacking from our young people, and increasingly from society in general. To combat this problem, here are some common courtesy basics that I teach my kids.

  1. Basic spoken manners. Teach kids to use “please” and “thank you”. They should tell people “hello” and “goodbye”. Don’t let them ignore someone when they are spoken to, they deserve a reply. Keep negative thoughts to yourself in most cases. Say “sorry” when you are wrong. Call adults “Mr.” or “Ms.” until you are invited not to.
  2. Basic courtesy and thoughtfulness. If you see someone coming, hold the door. If you bump into someone, say “excuse me”. Don’t cut in line, wait your turn without complaining. If you feel like someone needs help, ask “can I help you?” Just because you do not know someone does not mean you get to ignore another human being.
  3. Be friendly. No one likes a grouch. Look people in the eye as you pass by. Say hello to people you know. Call people by name. Don’t stare at your tablet or phone when you are spending time with others. Smile. Introduce yourself to people you see frequently. Ask people how they are doing and listen to their response. If you are offered a hand, shake it.

4. Respect others. Keep your hands to yourself. If a door is closed, knock first. If someone knocks on your door, respond “just a minute please!” Don’t take things without asking. Use the golden rule; treat others as you would like to be treated. Speak and act with kindness.

5. Be a good guest. When you are at some else’s home, follow their rules. Don’t go into rooms unless you are invited to. Ask for a snack or drink, don’t help yourself. Offer to help your host. Clean up after yourself. Don’t stay longer than you should. Leave at meal times unless you are invited to stay.

6. Table manners. Stay seated at the table. If you have to leave, ask to be excused. Unless there is a food allergy or safety concern, eat what is served even if it is not your favorite food. No phones at the table. Eat quietly and chew with your mouth closed. Don’t slurp or blow bubbles with your straw. Sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table. Use your silverware, not your hands (unless you’re having finger foods). Clear away your dishes when you’re done. Offer to help clean up.

The best way to teach kids common courtesy is to model these behaviors yourself and to insist they be practiced at home. Also, children will benefit from frequent reminders. This can be especially important if they are heading off to school or to a friend’s house where they will be away from your watchful eye! Talk about what good manners they practiced when they return home. Tell stories or have a conversation about your personal experiences with manners and courtesy (or lack thereof). Emphasize the importance of these principles with your children.

Above all, the best foundation for good manners and courtesy is a loving and respectful home. If we teach our children kindness and respect, then good manners will come as a natural extension of these ideologies. Any rough edges can be smoothed out along the way with some well-placed parental guidance.


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