proper etiquette

Proper Etiquette in Public Your Kids Must Learn

There is a proverb that speaks to raising children that says: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” [Tweet This]. Teaching proper etiquette to kids requires effort and patience, but the proverb holds true. The efforts we make now will remain with them for the remainder of their lives. Pretty big deal, wouldn’t you say?

Recently I was on a trip out west and my wife and I were dining in an upscale restaurant. One of those type places where you really don’t want to see the bill when it arrives. Seated beside our little table for two was a large family. The children in the group were out of control. They were screaming, laughing, running around…generally doing what kids do when they play. Except they were doing it in a room full of diners expecting an elegant evening in exchange for a hefty price tag. The parents put up only mild protest and not very often.

The table on the other side of us complained and eventually were moved. Nothing was said to the large family and the kids continued as they were. My wife and I weren’t loving it, but being experienced parents we’ve learned the important skill of “tuning out.” But the experience was a good reminder of the importance of teaching kids proper etiquette in public. The adults of that party were at fault in the situation. What are some of the most important public manners our children should be taught? Here’s our top 4.

1. Dinner Time Etiquette

Time together at the dinner table is foundational in building families. This is where real communication and sharing happens sincerely. We create opportunities by teaching our kids the basic rules and etiquette of table behavior. The finer details of which fork goes where, and whose glass belongs to whom, can be taught over time. But to start, napkins in the lap, quiet down in a respectful manner, chew with your mouth closed, and stay seated unless permission is granted to get up. Build on these when they begin to master the basics.

2. Consideration for the Space of Others

Our kids spend a great deal of time in crowded spaces: school hallways, sidewalks, and playgrounds. It’s important to teach them to be considerate and aware of those also sharing the space. Kids tend to congregate in groups, and those groups tend to block up space making it difficult for other people to move around. An effective way to teach this is by example. Frustrate their movement until they say something, and then you can explain that’s how others feel when the same is done to them.

3. Verbal Respect

The art of verbal manners will never go out of style. Please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, may I, and properly addressing adults are basic manners all kids should know. This is frustrating to teach to young children, but have perseverance. If you hand them an ice cream and they take off running without a thank you, go retrieve the ice cream and correct the mistake. Keep at it. Society will thank you one day.

4. Respect for Elders

Our culture is rapidly changing and has become far less formal, but shouldn’t it be agreed that proper respect be shown to our senior citizens? Simple things like offering a seat, or giving a helping hand, go a long way in making life more pleasant for everyone.

Sound Off

What other things do kids need to know about proper etiquette in public?

  • Ryan Sullivan

    I would add saying please and thank you to waiters/waitress’s. Always holding the door open for others especially women. And smiling when saying hello to people.

  • David Lisk

    A few years ago my wife and I had almost the same experience in a chain restaurant. The kids were even walking across the tables. The couple next to us were none too happy either. The husband asked me why kids act like that. I told him because they can. As adults it’s our responsibility to teach and guide. And it doesn’t mean doing it only in the home. Take the unruly kid out of the restaurant a few times without a meal and make him or her sit with you outside and they get the point that they have been ostracized for their behavior and it’s not acceptable. Children want to be a part of your life. But don’t let them disrupt your life.

  • Mr. Bigglesworth

    Sadly, it would seem that out-of-control kids are becoming the norm. I can’t count how many drinks and food I’ve had knocked over by kids jamming themselves right in front of me or whizzing down the aisle right in front of me (using what little of your typical amount of leg “room” is available) at sporting events on their way to essentially demand–instead of politely asking for–autographs, all the while their parents standing right there not only not reining them in, but actively encouraging them to act like feral animals. Rules 2 and 4 blatantly disregarded. My parents would have grounded me for acting like that in public….

  • Jim Davis

    Saying “yah” rather than “yes” dives me nuts. Young people talking among themselves can use yah, but when talking to adults they need to learn to use the word “yes”. Using “yah” all the time is a clear sign of a poor upbringing.

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Huddle up with your kids tonight and ask, “Why do you think proper behavior in public is important?”

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