7 Easy Ways to Get Kids to Be More Polite

Mother and young daughter sit at a kitchen table wiping their mouths with paper napkins

Wouldn't it be nice if a child's first words were, "Thank you, Mama"? Unfortunately, polite children are not born; they are trained. Here are a few ways other parents have encouraged their children to grow in their social skills and learn better manners:

Say Please and Thank You

My children learned to say please and thank you through a simple game. I wrote down requests that we would take turns presenting. A request might be to shake another person's hand. The child would say, "Austin, would you please shake my hand?" If the word please was used, the request must be fulfilled, and the child scored one point. If he remembered to say thank you, the child scored another point. The person with the most points won the game. My kids quickly learned to use these words in everyday life.

—Susan Olubunmis

Close your lips when food is in your mouth

To remind our kids to chew with their mouths closed, my husband and I created Dinner Table Olympics. We scored and tabulated "events" such as Food Chewing and Talking With an Empty Mouth. After several days of events, we gave ribbons and congratulations. It worked as a fun reminder.

—Valarie Schenk

Don't interrupt

When my children want to talk with me while I'm speaking with someone else or busy doing something, I've taught them to put their hand on my arm and quietly wait. Doing this teaches my little ones not to interrupt, but it also shows them that I am genuinely interested in what they have to say and want to listen to them.

—Evie Lynne Palmer

Knock on closed doors before entering

We told our kids at an early age that they must knock before opening our closed bedroom door. In return, we showed them the same courtesy and knocked on their closed doors before entering. This equal respect for privacy worked for our family.

—Mike and Diane Nocks as told to Savanna Kaiser

Understand appropriate behavior in unique social situations

When a friend's husband died, I knew his funeral would be a new experience for my children. To prepare them:

  • We talked about what we would likely see at the funeral and what people would be doing.
  • I taught them to say, "I'm sorry for your loss" when expressing their sorrow to the widow.
  • Role-playing ahead of time enabled our children to know what to expect in a unique social situation, helping them eliminate fear of the unknown.

—Mary Jo Keller

Don't pick your nose in public

"Here, Mama!" my 2-year-old said, proudly handing me a booger.

I handed her a tissue. "When you have boogers, get them out with this," I instructed.

Sometimes, we have nose-blowing competitions to see who can get out the most snot. This motivates her to practice blowing her nose.

—Rachel Peachey

Keep your hands to yourself

My parents' favorite phrase when we walked into a store full of delicates was, "Put your hands in your pockets." This resulted in an immediate, concrete action from my siblings and me. Now as the mother of two, I give this instruction to my own children. Even when they don't have pockets, the meaning is clear: Items here break easily. No touching.

—Dorcas Buckley


"Say Please and Thank You," "Close Your Lips When Food Is In Your Mouth," "Don't Interrupt," "Knock on Closed Doors Before Entering," "Understand Appropriate Behavior in Unique Social Situations," "Don't Pick Your Nose in Public" and "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" first appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of <em>Focus on the Family</em> magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by <a href="https://www.focusonthefamily.com/magazine/?refcd=205303" target="_blank">subscribing</a> to it for a gift of any amount.
"Say Please and Thank You" is copyrighted © 2018 by Susan Olubunmis. "Close Your Lips When Food Is In Your Mouth" is copyrighted © 2018 by Valarie Schenk. "Don't Interrupt" is copyrighted © 2018 by Evie Lynne Palmer. "Knock on Closed Doors Before Entering" is copyrighted © 2018 by Savanna Kaiser. "Understand Appropriate Behavior in Unique Social Situations" is copyrighted © 2018 by Mary Jo Keller. "Don't Pick Your Nose in Public" is copyrighted © 2018 by Rachel Peachey. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" is copyrighted © 2018 by Dorcas Buckley. Used by permission.

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