How to Teach Kids to be Polite

By Contributing Writer

Parents do kids a grave disservice when they don't teach them how to be polite. Teachers, friends, neighbors and extended family all appreciate it when kids are polite to them and are genuinely bothered when kids are not polite. Teaching manners gives kids a life filled with greater appreciation for themselves and others when they grow up with appropriate manners and respect for themselves and those around them. This all begins with the basics of teaching kids to be polite from a young age. Here are simple ways to get kids on the right road to being polite.

Be a role model for polite behavior. Have you ever seen a parent scream at a kid then turn around and expect them to be polite to an adult? It doesn't work that way. The old adage that kids will do as you do not as you say is true. If you want kids to be polite you must model for them polite behavior. Speak in a kind tone to kids and make requests not threats. It is not always easy to be patient with kids but as an adult it is your responsibility to model appropriate behavior.

Catch kids being good. When you notice kids being polite to someone by either thanking someone for something or asking for something in a polite way, acknowledge it. That way, their good behavior gets attention and recognizes them for the type of behavior you expect. It reinforces you respect and awareness of them as individuals and encourages them to behave in similar ways in the future.

Set appropriate boundaries and expectations for polite behavior. Understand that kids need to be told which polite behaviors are expected of them. In some homes, a phone call to say thank you for a birthday present is enough. In others an email or a personal note is expected. If a child has hurt someones feelings, even though that isn't what she meant to do, still encourage her to apologize for her part in any misunderstanding. Everyone makes mistakes and no one person is either all right or all wrong. Show kids what is expected in terms of polite behavior on a regular basis too. Kids need consistent boundaries so they will grow into thoughtful and polite adults. Just because kids are learning to be polite that doesn't mean they should be walked on, however. Teach kids to walk away from people and situations that are not showing polite behavior to them in return. By allowing them to stop impolite behavior that's directed towards them, they learn an important lesson about self-care and self-respect.

Connect with kids. Some parents expect such strict standards for their children to be polite but never let their guard down and have a little fun with them. These kids may learn to be polite but they also run the risk of being so guarded that they start to distrust adults and are polite in a superficial way. When you connect with kids while you teach them to be polite you create a strong and lasting bond with them. They will naturally want to adopt polite behaviors.

Describe the basics of polite behavior. Keep modeling until the behavior becomes natural in the child. Start when kids are toddlers. It is never too early to start teaching kids to be polite. The basics of polite behavior include saying please and thank you when asking for something or receiving something. But polite behavior also includes a kind tone of voice and a pleasant attitude. Let kids know that people appreciate it when someone is kind to them. Kids grow up to be more confident and have better self esteem when they know from an early age what is expected of them. Kids who start learning how to be polite when young grow into polite adults.