How to Raise a Polite Kid: 10 Manners to Teach Them Now

My daughter yells, "WATER!" when she wants water, "MILK!" when she wants milk, and, well, you get the idea. "Where's the please and thank you?" I ask her, but it's no use. Manners, it seems, have fallen out of fashion in today's more casual world, but it's time to reverse that trend. Here are 10 polite behaviors I used to do as a kid that I think it's high time to bring back in style.


  1. Address adults with "Sir" or "Ma'am." "Such appellations have become so extinct that kids who use them will receive instant election into the Manners Hall of Fame," says Alex Packer, PhD, author of How Rude! The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out. "Adults will be putty in their hands." And if kids know an adult's name, that means using "Mr./Ms." too.
  2. Make a proper introduction. Look in the other person's eyes and smile. Shake hands and say, "It's nice to meet you Mrs. Smith." "This is so rare that people comment on my son's manners when he does this," says Tracy Gibb of "The only reason I taught him to do this is because I was so impressed by another child who did it. Being able to do this is crucial in adulthood, so the more practice they have, the more comfortable they'll feel."
  3. Say "Excuse me" or "Pardon me" when cutting off or bumping into others in public. "It would be nice to hear a kid today say this in a store or elsewhere," says therapist Nancy Irwin. "Many kids today feel like you are in their way!"
  4. Offer to carry packages/purchases for an adult. "Whether it's mom, grandma, or any other elder, seeing someone struggle with a package is an opportunity to offer assistance," says Dianne Daniels, a coach at If the adult says thanks, see our next point ...
  5. Say "You're welcome" instead of "No problem." "Where did this response to 'thank you' come from? It makes no sense," says Packer. "Why would carrying groceries be a problem, especially if that's what the store is paying you to do? Why would any simple gesture or task be a problem? And even if it is a problem, I don't need to hear about it." 
  6. Greet people properly. For example, "Hi Mr. Jones, how are you today?" How hard is that? "Most kids avoid adults at all costs, so this skill is one that needs to be brought back," says Gibb. "How can kids function as adults without being able to speak to people they don't know that well? Networking can make or break you in your career!"
  7. Use proper phone greetings. "Parents notice when kids use good phone manners," says Gibb. "I expect mine to do the same." Teach your child to say, "Hi this is [name here], may I please speak to [name here]?"
  8. Say,"Thank you for dinner Mrs. Smith, it was great," after eating at someone else's home. "This should be said even if dinner was disgusting and your friend is calling you to play Xbox," says Gibb. Bonus points if your kids ask, "Can I help you clear the table?"
  9. Give up your seat for someone on a bus or subway. "Offering someone a seat is such an easy and lovely thing to do," says Packer. "And half the time the offer is declined, so you end up with your seat and a good feeling."
  10. Don't text during dinner or any other social events. Instead, why not socialize the old-fashioned way -- by talking to the person you're with? "Face-to-face interactions are becoming extinct," says Packer. "Yet these are the lifeblood of human intimacy and kindness. Looking a person in the eye -- and no, Skype doesn't count -- is how true empathy, sensitivity, and consideration are built. Kids learn the nuances of human relationships by interacting with humans -- not devices." (This rule goes for adults too!)

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