Steffanie Rivers

I read an article the other day where people debated whether or not it is appropriate to send thank you sentiments via email or if putting pen to paper and writing a thank you note is better. When it comes to proper etiquette, the points of view can be endless. But I’m sure most people would agree that a well-mannered child is the best kind of child. You know, they’re the ones who
are mostly seen and rarely heard. Parents of unruly children are more to blame for their behavior, which is why I have to stop to thank my mother (a former single parent) for taking the time to teach me what some parents these days have overlooked.

And just when I thought nobody else shared my feelings – judging from the number of
children running around exhibiting inappropriate behavior – I came across another article that supports my point of view. So for the people who think all there is to being a good parent is to feed and clothe a child, here are some manners every child should learn before they leave kindergarten. Honestly I think every child should be taught all of these things before they start kindergarten, but some tots are slow learners and need reinforcement from other children before they catch on. Here they are:

A child should be taught to say ‘please’ before or after every request. And ‘thank-you’ should follow every offering, compliment or kind gesture.

Children should learn to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, because no matter how cute they are, children are safe havens for germs. And they should say ‘excuse me’ for the involuntary spewing of bacteria.

If your child simply must pass gas or burp in front of others, teach them to say ‘excuse me’ but continue to work on having more self control.

If someone asks ‘How are you?’ they should answer, then ask that person how they are.

When speaking with adults address them with ‘mam’ and ‘sir.’ It shows respect for your elders.

Never interrupt adults who are talking, even on the telephone unless it is an emergency. And if it is an emergency, say ‘excuse me’ then proceed. But if you interrupt, it better be an emergency.

Teach your children not to stare at, tease or bully people, because it hurts their feelings.

It’s never appropriate to spit on anybody or throw things at people.

Children should flush the toilet after every use. And wash their hands with soap and water when they finish.

They should wash their hands before they enter the refrigerator. And if whatever they want in the fridge isn’t already open, ask before they open it.

Whenever they open a door, look to see if there is someone coming behind them so they can hold the door for that person.

If a door in the house is closed knock on it and wait to be invited in before opening it.

Always put items back where they found them. It’s okay to be messy sometimes, but it’s important to clean up after one’s self.

In church or in other close quarters, children should say ‘excuse me’ when they brush past people or accidently step on their feet.

They should wash their hands before eating. And when at a restaurant, they should never put their little fingers in the food on the buffet. Nobody knows where their hands have been and we’d rather not have to imagine.

Don’t talk with food in your mouth or chew food with your mouth open. Nobody wants to see that.

Although there is a time and place for everything, picking your nose and sampling its contents is not to be done in front of other people.

As time goes on there will be other more important things children will learn, but these are the foundation.

For parents who haven’t connected the dots, ill-mannered children grow up to be obnoxious adults. So do us all a favor and pay attention to details. And parents – in case you haven’t realized it – children do what you do, not what you say.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at