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September 2012 – Courtesy


Courtesy: polite behavior; gracious manner or manners

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Courtesy is a man’s privilege not an obligation.” – Unknown

“When restraint and courtesy are added to strength, the latter becomes irresistible.” – Mahatma Gandhi

How to Raise Courteous and Confident Kids

Research shows that children with good social skills make friends easier, perform better at school, and are more resilient to life’s challenges.

Social skills are behaviors that help others feel comfortable with us and help us make friends. Social skills are arguably the most important set of abilities a person can have. People are social beings and need to be able to connect with other people. Having inadequate social skills can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and/or depression.

By teaching your children social skills such as manners and good eye contact, you are helping your child develop vital strategies for being successful in their relationships. When a child knows what to say and how to act in any situation, it eases their anxiety and allows them to act confidently.

Manners: A Vital Social Skill All Children Should Master

Manners and an understanding of modern etiquette are also vital social skills for children. Competition for admission in colleges and good jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. Those young people whose manners are well developed and natural will stand out and have a leg up on their peers. Knowing the proper social graces allows children to feel confident and poised. This allows them to shine in social situations, even stressful ones like interviews.

During the teen years, it is particularly tough for kids to feel sure of themselves, as they are in a confusing position of being between childhood and adulthood. As a result, teens tend to act out because they are unsure of how to behave. They need manners as social tools to navigate their way through the social situations they will encounter as they grow up.

Strategies for Improving Your Children’s Manners and Etiquette

Social skills like manners and etiquette must be taught and practiced regularly, in order for children to become confident and self-assured.

1) Model good manners. Children will be watching their parents to see how they behave.

2) Talk to your children about why manners are important. Use examples to illustrate your point. “When your friend came over yesterday and didn’t say hello to me, it hurt my feelings because I felt like he didn’t notice I was even there. That’s why it is important for you to always say hello when you go into someone’s house.”

3) Practice good manners with your children daily. Practice morning greetings, table manners, introducing friends, and offering to help, etc. Some manners will need to be taught through role-playing, as children may not have regular opportunities to practice them, such as how to introduce Mom or Dad to a teacher. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes every day to practice. If your children were learning a new skill like piano playing, you would expect them to practice every day. Social behaviors also need to be practiced daily.

4) Make use of the television. Ask your children to evaluate the behavior of people in television shows. When you see a display of charm and effective communication, point it out. Get your children to evaluate what behavior made the person so likeable. When you see children on TV behaving disrespectfully or awkwardly, ask what could have been done differently. Are they being polite? Is that the way a kid should talk to their parent? Get your children to think about what they see instead of blindly accepting that behavior as normal.

5) Get into the habit of sitting at the table at least 3 times a week. This allows many opportunities to practice courtesy and conversation. Even if you eat in front of the TV, make sure your children use good manners. Consider holding regular dinner parties or other social gatherings so your children can practice their social skills and etiquette.

6) Every social situation provides a teaching opportunity. Take a few minutes to prompt your child. “There is a new opportunity to meet a kid over there. How would you start a conversation with him?” Be sure to acknowledge and encourage his attempts, no matter how awkward at first. The more practice your child has, the more confident he or she will become in his social interactions.

7) Get your children used to shaking hands firmly, making eye contact, and smiling when they meet people. This makes a positive impression on people, and this will help immensely when they are applying for future employement.

By giving children the skills they need to feel comfortable, at ease and not self-conscious in social situations, parents are providing their children with skills that will last a lifetime. They will be able to face many high pressure situations such as school, job interviews, dates, and college effortlessly with seamless manners and confidence.

Activities to teach Courtesy

Arts and Crafts:

Arts and crafts activities are a good way to introduce the principles of good manners to a young child. Sitesforteachers.com suggests using hand puppets to teach children courtesy. After making simple hand puppets out of paper plates or small brown bags, you and your son can use them to practice the basics of common courtesy, such as saying “please” and “thank you,” covering your mouth if you need to cough or sneeze, sharing, asking to be excused and taking turns. The puppets can also be used to sing songs or recite simple poems about good manners together. With arts and crafts, your child will learn basic etiquette and enjoy themselves at the same time.

Role Play:

You can also use role playing to teach courtesy to your kids. This technique of practicing a real-life scenario with your child is especially useful for teaching school-age children phone etiquette. Simply pretend to place a phone call and model for your daughter the proper way to greet someone, to ask for appropriate information, and to take messages. Take turns being the caller and the callee so your daughter can gain experience placing and receiving phone calls. She will enjoy role playing different scenarios with you, as she acquires the important life skill of conducting herself politely on the phone.


Playing a sport will give your child the opportunity to learn good manners in a group setting. In order to be a good team player, your child will be expected to treat the other members with respect. He or she will also need to play fairly and be encouraging to his teammates. This expectation of courtesy will be enforced by his or her coaches and his peers. He/she will also have the opportunity to learn principles of good sportsmanship. Your child will win some games and lose others. Whatever the outcome, they will need to learn to bear it graciously by always thanking the other team for a good game and refraining from unsportsmanlike conduct, such as name-calling or making belittling comments.

Etiquette Dinner:

An etiquette dinner is an activity that simulates a fine dining experience for middle school to high school-aged youth. Formal invitations are issued and accepted, and your child would be expected to wear dressy attire. During the course of the dinner, a guest speaker would talk to him/her and their friends about good table manners and etiquette. If formal place settings are used, she/he also would be given instruction on which fork or spoon was appropriate for which course and the proper ways to eat particular foods.

Books to share with your Children:

  • What do you say, Dear? By Maurice Sendak
  • What do you do Dear? Proper Conduct for all Occasions by Sesyle Joslin
  • Mind Your Manners! By Peggy Parish
  • You Know Better Than That By Norah Smaridge

Courtesy in the workplace:

There are many ways to emphasize the importance of courtesy in the workplace. At your next staff meeting, we encourage you to take 5 minutes to remind your staff about the importance of this. A call for courtesy could include a reminder on: text-messaging during conversations, checking email or opening correspondence while meeting with others, inflicting cellphone conversations on people in public, loose use of obscenities, making one’s personal life public, showing up late for appointments, overly casual dress for meetings, etc. How can you increase the levels of courtesy among your employees this month?