Your Toddler’s Manners: What to Expect

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By Alexa Joy Sherman

As with most milestones, mastering manners is determined by both physical and emotional development. Motor skills acquired around 15 months (rolling the wrist to get a spoon into the mouth) mean meals will become less messy, says Karp, and interest in organization at 18 months and craving approval at 2 years equal improved obedience. Kids acquire skills at their own pace, but our experts suggest shooting for the following targets.

By age 2, kids should:

•Be directed to greet others by shaking hands and/or saying “hello,” and to say “goodbye” when leaving somebody

•Say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” etc., when prompted

•Be instructed to share/ not grab

•Start using utensils and a cup at mealtimes, with some assistance

•Learn to wait for short periods of time

•Help with tidying up/ putting toys away

•Cease inappropriate behavior when instructed, or be removed from the situation

By age 3, kids should:

•Greet others by making eye contact and shaking hands or saying “hello,” and say “goodbye” when leaving somebody

•Say “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “excuse me,” etc.

•Share with others, exercise impulse control (not grab)

•Use utensils and a cup during meals, with little or no assistance

•Sit through a short meal

•Be patient/wait for several minutes or more

•Tidy up their room/put away toys after playtime

•Cease inappropriate behavior as instructed

By age 4, kids should:

•Use appropriate voices while indoors

•Help others (e.g., assist in setting the table for meals and other chores)

•Wash hands before and after meals

•Use utensils, a cup and a napkin during meals

•Exercise considerable patience

•Ask for permission in applicable situations (e.g., “May I be excused?” after a meal)

How your toddler should behave at 2, 3, and 4.

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