Encouraging manners in preschoolers: Here's what to know

These skills help contribute to a child’s social success, as showing respect to others is a key aspect of positive relationships.
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By Michelle Balani

When children have good social skills, they are polite and courteous, they listen to others when they speak, and they use polite phrases like “thank you” and “excuse me.” These types of skills help contribute to a child’s social success, as showing respect to others is a key aspect of positive relationships and interactions. You can begin to teach your child about the value of being polite and respectful by setting a good example. When you are polite to them, and say “please” and “thank you” regularly to her and others, you are giving her a lesson in courtesy that goes beyond rules and explanations. By modeling good manners, you are not only strengthening your child’s social graces, but also teaching him that being polite is a normal part of social interaction.

Just like any other social skill, manners can be practiced with your child. You can do this by giving examples of when they should use polite phrases like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” and explaining to them that people appreciate it when you talk to them politely. Tell him that it makes you feel happy when he asks for something nicely -- it is good to get children in the habit of doing nice things for others to make them feel good rather than to score points. Remind her that when she remembers to use polite phrases in her interactions with others or uses the right tone of voice when asking for something, people will be more likely to help her or to be her friend.

Work with your child to come up with ways they can meet and be polite to future friends. Teach your child to smile and to greet others. Explain that they can get to know people by asking them how their day is going, or by talking about something they are doing at school together. Educational consultant Jennifer Miller says that you may also want to introduce yourself and your child to others when you are entering a new environment like daycare, playgroup, or preschool. Not only will this serve as an opportunity to model an introduction, but it will take the pressure off and children will have a head start on getting to know one another. In time, your child will begin to feel more comfortable interacting with others in a polite and compassionate manner. Just remember that you are beginning a process that can take time, and some children need many reminders before they show manners on their own. It’s important that you try not to be impatient or discouraged. As long as your child usually responds appropriately when you remind him, you can be confident that he is on the right track to learning manners.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Faye de Muyshondt, socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS; Jennifer Miller, Author, Confident Parents, Confident Kids; and Michele Borba, Author and Educational Psychologist.