The Most Important Etiquette Rules Kids Should Learn

The Most Important Etiquette Rules Kids Should Learn

Beyond “please” and “thank you,” there are lots of etiquette “rules” kids have to learn so they can grow into well-mannered, decent people. Which ones are the most important?

Photos by langstrup (Shutterstock), Jessica Watkins DeWinter

Not all children are exposed to the etiquette lessons from Highlights' Goofus and Gallant:

But it's our hope as parents not to raise annoying Goofuses (and no doubt you've met a few Goofus-types in your life, of various ages). So these are our suggestions for some of the important issues to consider -- we'd love to hear your contributions as well!

How to have a conversation—and really listen

Taking turns talking (instead of talking over the other person) and truly listening isn't easy for kids (and many adults too), but that's the basis of meaningful conversation, and the sooner we learn these skills the better. Real Simple has a suggestion (in its print magazine) of practising this by tossing a ball or pillow back and forth, where the person holding the item has the opportunity to talk—like the conch in Lord of the Flies, I guess.

There are lots of other opportunities to teach this lesson in everyday life, though. The other day my 8 year old and her friend were talking and got into a screaming match, yelling over each other and arguing over the right way to sew a stuffed animal. In the end, they realised they both were saying the same thing.

Respect for others' personal space

Young kids are often used to cuddling with you, climbing over you, and otherwise being super close. Others might not appreciate that much closeness.

How to wait without whining

This is hard for adults too! I need to take my daughter to more boring errands like going to the post office or goof shopping. Patience is a skill that maybe is more easily learned from those hardening experiences.

Cleaning up after yourself

It's in the Goofus and Gallant comic above, but worth repeating. At some point, kids will probably live with others outside your family, and no one likes to live with a slob. Plus, littering is just not cool.

(Personally, I don't really care if my kid's room and playroom are a mess, as they usually are. But the other areas of the house have different standards.)

Put technology away at the dinner table and when friends are around

This goes for both kids and parents alike. (I know it's hard)


  • Don’t get up and wander round in the middle of a meal.
    The only joint at a table should be the one you eat.

  • Be punctual.
    Don’t take a call or respond to a message on your mobile phone when talking to another person – put it on silent.
    Be considerate of others around you when doing things like talking on the phone.
    Look where you’re going when walking.
    Wait your turn.
    Reply to all messages, sooner rather than later.
    When driving, indicate your turn well before the turn, not at the last second (ok, not for kids!).
    Chew with your mouth closed, and don’t talk with food in your mouth.
    Say ‘excuse me’ if you need to get past someone, get their attention, or if you accidently bump into them.
    Leave things as you find them, e.g. if you go through a closed door, close it behind you.
    Stand up when being introduced to someone, and when a person you’re waiting for or meeting arrives.
    Don’t use your finger to point at people who are close by and may see you.

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