Age Appropriate Manners

Teach your child the right manners at the right time.

There’s no doubt about it—manners matter. But which manners should you teach your child? And when? Here’s a basic primer on manners to get you started:

Ages 1 to 2

The toddler years are the years for learning “magic words” and developing the solid habit of using them. It’s not developmentally realistic to expect children this age to use impeccable table manners or to refrain from interrupting you when you’re on the phone. Instead focus on the basics. Your toddler should practice regular use of what are commonly referred to as “magic words”:

  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Excuse me
  • I’m sorry

Ages 3 to 6

Children ages 3 to 6 are learning to socialize and get along with others. Manners become very important during this time and children learn to see how manners can open—or close—doors. Kids this age are developmentally ready to learn the following:

  • No interrupting: This is a tough, but important skill to teach children. It takes time, patience, and practice—but you can shape a respectful child who refrains from interrupting.
  • Taking turns: Teaching your child to wait his/her turn helps foster a sense of patience, respect, and fairness that will last a lifetime.
  • Listening: Parents often complain that their kids don’t listen, but this skill can and should be taught. Listening is a valuable communication skill that your child will need throughout life. Teach your child to look at the person who is speaking and build on the manners mentioned above—no interrupting and taking turns.
  • Sharing: Kids this age are ready to learn to share things, but that doesn’t mean sharing is easy for them. Teach your child the fine art of sharing so that he/she can play well with others.
  • Polite introductions: For the rest of their lives, your children will be introducing or being introduced. This is a basic life skill that is often overlooked. Teach your child to shake hands and say “Hi, my name is…”
  • Table manners: Table manners take time to teach and should unfold in stages. For example, a 3-year-old cannot realistically be expected to sit still through a meal; however, he/she can learn some basic table manners. By age 6, all children should be able to:
    • Chew with their mouth closed
    • Properly use utensils and napkins
    • Sit respectfully at the table
    • Politely ask for something to be passed and pass dishes to others

Ages 7 to 10

Once kids reach age 7, they’re ready to embrace some larger components of manners—more commonly referred to as etiquette. The golden rule holds true and children this age can be taught to treat others as they wish to be treated—with kindness and respect. This is when kids start to understand the why behind manners and to develop a sense of empathy. Some age-appropriate manners for these kids include:

  • Respecting the privacy and belongings of others
  • Displaying good sportsmanship
  • Being a gracious and respectful host and/or guest
  • Writing thank-you notes
  • Displaying polite phone manners when answering or making phone calls

When it comes to manners, remember—practice makes perfect. Set your child up for success in the world by teaching and practicing manners at home.