Teaching Good Manners: How to Raise a Polite Child

World leader Nelson Mandela was known for being polite with one and all. On his 99th birthday, let’s pay a tribute to this great man by teaching our children to be polite.

By Anitha Bennett  • 8 min read

Teaching Good Manners: How to Raise a Polite Child

What do we mean when we say someone is polite? Well, we refer to the person being respectful and considerate of others. When we look around us, to how many people can we apply this term? Not many, right? In today’s fast-paced world, this virtue is often overlooked. And, the few who make an effort to be polite are looked upon with suspicion or as someone with ulterior motives!

Our children encounter rudeness more often than politeness, right from a very young age from both family and friends. More often than not, they simply believe such behaviour to be right and follow the same.

However, there are a few things that you can teach your child to raise his politeness quotient.

1. Use the golden words: Remind your child to use the golden words ‘Please’, ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thank you’ from early on. Please – when she wants something from someone; Thank you – when she receives something; Sorry – when she offends someone, even if the other individual may be wrong.

2. Greet people respectfully: Encourage your child to look at people in the eye when he speaks to them. Teach him to greet others by saying ‘Hello’, ‘Good morning’, and so on, depending on the time of the day. Also, teach him to address elders as Sir, Ma’am, Uncle, Aunty and so on.

3. Smile often: Teach your child the power of smile. Let her acknowledge those she meets with a bright smile on her face. Smile often at your own child to encourage her to smile.

4. Listen to other's ideas: Encourage your child to be open to ideas that are different from his own. Guide him on how to listen to other’s ideas and perspectives, and accommodate them, even if he disagrees with them.

5. Treat others courteously: Most adults believe that teaching children to get ahead in a hurry in queues and jostle their way up towards the front is a life skill! Teach your child to be patient and wait for her turn. When sharing among siblings, teach children to offer the best choice to the other. Also, let them be courteous to elders - holding the door open for grandma or grandpa to walk through, or helping them get into the car.

6. Show kindness to others: Give opportunities to your child to practise politeness by doing random acts of kindness wherever possible – giving up his seat in the bus for a physically-challenged individual, helping someone much younger than him to climb the stairs, or offering the elderly help in carry their bags or in crossing the road.

7. Improve conversational skills: Some children may be naturally loud and hyperactive. However, it is very important, as a parent, to teach your child how to modulate her voice to sound gentle and polite, especially when talking to adults. Teach your child to wait for her turn when conversing with others, and to not interrupt unless it is absolutely necessary.

8. Practise table manners: Often overlooked because most families don’t sit around the table to eat, good manners while eating are a must to inculcate politeness in children. Correct your child when he chews loudly with his mouth open or talks with his mouth full. Also, teach your child to serve others before serving himself and to ask around now and again, if anyone needs refills.

Now that you know what to teach your child, how would you go about teaching the same?

1. By speaking respectfully to everyone: Role-model polite behaviour by speaking respectfully to people around you in day-to-day life – especially household helpers. Help your child understand that everyone deserves to be treated with politeness and respect. Avoid gossiping about your friends and family behind their back while pretending to be nice in front of them.

2. By not using abusive or foul language: Children carefully observe how their parents speak and behave. So, be polite within the family as well. Many parents believe that using words such as ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’ or ‘Sorry’ with family members is being too formal. On the contrary, children respect those adults more who thank them or use the words ‘Please’ and ‘Sorry’ while interacting with them.

3. By observing situations and scenarios: Point out situations that call for being polite – be it in books, movies or real life. Talk about situations where you have observed children behaving politely. Encourage your child to follow suit. But while doing so, make sure it’s all done in such a way that your child does not feel you are being critical of him.

4. By practising tolerance as a virtue: If you find yourself being impolite with your child or someone else, immediately correct yourself. You can role-play the situation again and ask your child for the right response and the wrong response.

Nothing can better explain the virtues of politeness than the quote, “Politeness costs little but yields much”. So, practice politeness as a family. When you treat everyone around you with politeness, your children will emulate the same and soon it will be second nature to them.

Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool to preteen levels. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.