I'm by far a perfect parent, but I have been one for 26 years, so I have a little experience. I still screw things up often enough, yet somehow I ended up with some pretty decent kids. Go figure. I guess I'm doing something right. It's always been super important to me that my kids are respectful, polite and have decent manners. Because manners still matter guys.
I often find it kind of surprising how many people don't use (or teach their children) basic manners these days. I pretty much feel like as parents, it's our job to grow decent adults. That's what we signed up for when we decided to have kids, right?
From the very beginning, we've done our best to model this stuff at our house. Of course the best role models that kids have are their parents, so for kids to learn what is appropriate, the most important thing you can do is show them by example. It makes sense that it's not going to stick when you tell your kid she has to use an inside voice, but you scream at her brother for not picking up his toys all of the time. Those mixed messages are hard for kids to reconcile. Except when you step on an errant lego. That's totally worth an errant psycho scream.
It's best to begin with the basics, then add age appropriate etiquette rules as children get older and have more of an understanding of things. I think when you continually reinforce polite behavior and good manners, kids will eventually catch on. Coaching, reminders and positive reinforcement are very important in getting manners to stick. With consistency, even toddlers should have the basics down. I actually still remind my kids about manners and polite behavior sometimes, and they're all in double digits now. Does it ever end? One would wonder.
I've put together a few of the basics. I'm sure I'm missing some. If you think of more, let me know in the comments!
1. "Please," and "thank you," "no thank you," and "you're welcome," are great to start with. It shows respect and appreciation.
2. Don't interrupt when someone is talking, and if you do need to get someone's attention, say "excuse me."
3. Look at me when I am talking to you. It makes me feel like you are hearing me.
4. Respond when someone is speaking to you or asking you a question.
5. Call adults Mr. and Mrs, unless they tell you otherwise.
6. When meeting someone new, say, "It's nice to meet you."
7. Eat what you're served, or at least try a bite of everything.
8. Clear your own plates from the table.
9. Make your own beds.
10. Say excuse me.
11. Knock before entering a closed door.
12. Ask to help.
13. Don't badger. Badgering is a surefire way to not get what you are asking for in our house.
14. Write a thank you note when someone gives a gift.
15. Say "goodbye," and "thank you for having me," when leaving a friend's house.
16. Don't call people names or make fun of others. This is a hard and fast rule, there shouldn't be any exceptions.
17. Say "I'm sorry," if you hurt someone, or do something that you didn't mean to do.
18. Be a good sport. Even if you lose a game, it's nice to say "Good game," to your opponent. Good sportsmanship also means not to gloat or be what we call a "sore winner."