In obvious news: The world is becoming more impolite. Scroll through your TikTok feed or watch your local news, and you’ll likely see plenty of clips of people being tactless while shopping for groceries, boarding an airplane, or standing in line at their favorite fast-food restaurant. 

This rash of rudeness doesn’t seem to be going away soon, either. Per a report released last year by King’s College London, only 52% of parents in the United States believe good manners are essential for kids to learn—a nearly 25% drop from 1990. 

According to Forbes, incivility can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. In that piece, Joseph Shrand, MD, instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Chief Medical Officer of Riverside Community Care, and author of Unleashing the Power of Respect: The I-M Approach, talks about getting back to “the lost art of manners” and showing others kindness and understanding. “When is the last time you got angry at someone treating you with respect?” he asked.

One place to start is by teaching children basic manners and having parents model appropriate behavior. Given our busy schedules, it’s sometimes easier said than done. If caregivers focus on an essential few rules of etiquette to get started, politeness may again become contagious.

With that in mind, here are some indispensable manners to teach year children before they turn nine.

Say “please” and “thank you”

“Please” is the magic word, and using it when asking for something can get you what you want most of the time. Its counterpart, “thank you,” is the surest way to express gratitude to someone. Most of us probably drill this into our kids already, but it’s a surprisingly tough one for kids to remember, so make sure you model it yourself when you’re asking them to do something, whether that’s picking up their toys or brushing their teeth. Even if you’ve already asked them a few times.

Wait for your turn to speak

Waiting to enter the conversation requires considerable patience, an art that even adults grapple with. My two sons struggle with this concept as one sibling typically believes they are getting considerably more face time with a parent than the other. By explaining that waiting for their turn to speak will cause less frustration and ensure they will be given equal time, we’ve cut down on the rude interruptions a bit. (Just make sure you are allowing them room to speak too.)

Say “excuse me”

There will be moments when your child needs to interrupt a discussion (bathroom break). Let them know the preferred way to enter the conversation at these times is by saying, “Excuse me.” This phrase is also helpful when attempting to avoid bumping into others.  

Don’t make comments on someone else’s appearance

As someone who was teased about their appearance throughout adolescence, it took me a while to realize that my kids weren’t saying rude things about me to hurt my feelings. They simply had not developed the social skills to know that it might make someone else uncomfortable to do so. One way we’ve tried to build that skill in our kids is to explain that they shouldn’t make comments about how someone looks, and discreetly remind them when they forget.

To add, it’s also important not to call each other names. As someone who regularly reads the Dog Man series of graphic novels to my kids, it’s a hard concept to get across, when each book seemingly has a chapter dedicated to insulting someone else. But name calling can lead to hurt feelings down the road, and as silly as it sounds, I try to remind them that while calling someone a “one-nosed bubble dumpling” is fine in a comic, it can lead to hurt feelings in real life.

Avoid swearing

This skill is a tough one to get across, especially since we’ve started showing PG-13 movies to our oldest kid. Initially we thought sidestepping the words would be best, but identifying the “s-word,” “d-word,” and “f-word,” etc. has made it easier for him to avoid using them. If he has questions about whether or not a word is acceptable, we usually ask, “Would you feel comfortable saying that to your teacher?” It’s helped him figure things out on his own.

Ask how someone else is doing

In other words, when someone asks how you are, you should reply and return the favor. It shows interest and goes a long way in making others feel seen and welcome.

Seek permission

Most families have a system for using items that require authorization, such as playing on the Switch or using certain toys around the home. To prevent frustration, we tell our kids that if there is any doubt whether they need permission to use something, they should ask.

Ask others if they need help

Asking others of they need help teaches kids to look out awareness, how to be proactive, and the importance of looking out for others. 

Hold the door

When I pick up or drop off my kids at school, I see firsthand how confused even parents can be about this simple act of kindness. It can lead to a pileup of bodies at the entrance. It will take some practice, but you can reiterate that it takes just a moment out of your child’s day to help someone safely get through the door.

Knock when a door is closed

It’s polite to respect someone’s privacy. When teaching your kids to knock before entering, remind them to wait for a response before coming in. 

Send thank-you notes

When receiving a gift from a friend or relative, saying “thank you” is fine, but showing gratitude with a card or note is even better. Making a thank-you note can also be a fun activity for your child.

Proper dinner table behavior

Mealtime etiquette encompasses several behaviors, such as holding utensils properly, placing a napkin on your lap at the dinner table rather than using your sleeve, and not reaching across the table to get something. Have a refresher course regularly so your kids remember their table manners.