• Encourage the basics of politeness. Teach children to say “Please” and “Thank you”. Talk to them about how they feel when someone asks rather than demands and how they appreciate when someone expresses gratitude to them.
  • Model civility. SHOW how you want your children to behave toward others. Sometimes, adults are the worst offenders and, believe me, children soak in our disrespect for one another.


  • Give children the time to ask questions for greater understanding and empathy. Make time to discuss the diversity of cultural backgrounds. Help them eliminate words such as “weird” and “strange” when they talk about customs with which they are less familiar.
  • In your home and classroom, even for a trip to the grocery store, create a list of expectations with children well beforehand. Ask them their ideas about how to make the experience work for everyone. If children help to create the guidelines for good behavior, they feel more ownership and show more accountability.
  • Stop unwanted behaviors firmly, clearly, and consistently. Learn to use “I” messages so that you can take a firm stand without putting your child down. If no one modeled for you how to correct behavior without insults, learn the skills of more effective assertive )not passive or aggressive) communication.
  • Generate regular opportunities for children to not only interact positively, but to collaborate with others. Have children talk about what cooperation looks and sounds like and, then, have a time (it can be as simple as the car ride home from a play date) for them to evaluate themselves. “How do you think you did on taking turns?” and “I noticed that you thanked Tanya for sharing her toys. What was her reaction?”
  • Celebrate differences as well as talk honestly about the legacy of who is considered “more than” and who is thought of as “less than” in our society. It’s always heartbreaking to feel that we might be destroying a child’s innocence, but children pick up on the inequities of our world early on. Feel out when it’s time to talk about inequalities with your child. Introduce the concept of not being a bully to someone with less power and status and how to firmly stand up for themselves without demeaning the other person or putting themselves in harm’s way.


Want to read more about civility that begins at home? Go to:


For more on using “I” messages and effective teacher and parent communication, go to:


* If you know someone who is part of an organization that wants to focus on civility and good-old-fashioned kindness, would you send this article to them or tell them about O’Halloran Diversity Productions? They can reach me at: and we will set up a short conversation to see if I can be of help to them. Thanks in advance!


Sue O’Halloran is a diversity consultant working for more inclusive schools, businesses and faith-based organizations. High school teachers, Sue will be offering a free webinar in 20183 Common Mistakes High School Teachers Make that Have Them Unintentionally Offending Students & Parents of Different Races. Watch for announcements!