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How to Teach Children Good Manners

Updated on March 9, 2014
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Teaching Kids To Be Polite

As much as you might like, your child is not going to be a perfect angel all the time. Even the best behaved have their moments, and remembering to be polite and well-mannered can be difficult. How do you teach your child to take a minute and say thank you before opening a birthday gift?

How do you teach your child to chew with his mouth closed? How do you show your child that they ought to say things like “Please,” and “Excuse me”? Here are some tips to make sure manners are a priority, whether your children are at home, at school, on the playground, or in the grocery store.

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It's a Habit & Lifestyle

Teaching your children good manners is like teaching them about healthy eating or exercising or the importance of family or…any of the million things we teach our children throughout their lives.

If we want the message to stick, and really make an impression, we have to practice what we preach. Children model what they see, and you are their first and most effective teachers. If you want them to behave a certain way, do it yourself.

Expect Slipups

You sometimes forget to say “Thank you,” right? You sometimes don’t let the car trying to merge into your lane make that move or let someone with fewer items go ahead of you in the store.

You sometimes forget, and your children certainly will. If your child forgets to say “Thank you,” just gently remind him. Lots of parents just ask, “What do you say?” to prompt them.

Stating Opinions

“Mom, this is the worst food ever. It makes me want to throw up.” Rude! But he is just stating his opinion. Teach him to state it a little more delicately: “Mom, I don’t really like to eat broccoli.” This is especially important if he is a guest! Also teach him to try things first and then say he’s had enough of a particular food if out in public.

Do your children voice their opinions all-too-willingly?

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Teach them!

Believe it or not, sometimes your child is not trying to be rude or impolite. He just doesn’t know the societal norms you’re trying to teach him. Some behaviors are ingrained; others have to be learned. If you don’t want your child interrupting you, for instance, tell him. At certain ages, children don’t realize that they aren’t the center of the universe and that interrupting or other behaviors are not acceptable.

Read Stories That Teach

Give book gifts about manners and talk about them. Some good ones to try: Llama, Llama Mad at Mama, Clifford’s Manners (Norman Bridwell), Chocolate-Covered Cookie Tantrum (Deborah Blumenthal), How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food (Jane Yolen), and Monster Manners (Andrew Glass).

If you are watching a television show or movie with your child, take the opportunity to point out little examples of good and bad manners. Take the teachable moment!

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Age & Environment

Think about the important rules you want to teach your children. Finer points of etiquette can wait until your child is older.

Teach age-appropriate manners; thanks and please can be taught almost immediately; don’t chew with your mouth open can wait until your child masters fork and spoon!

Create an environment where manners are not just appreciated, but expected. After dinner, for instance, children as young as 1 or 2 can hand you their dish when done or take it to the sink themselves.

Let them know that good manners and behavior are just part of everyday life.

Positive Reinforcement

Reinforce good manners. When your child exhibits especially good behavior or manners, praise him with words or with a treat like kids cookies.

To many children, this is much more effective than calling them on bad behavior. But if you have to, make sure to speak to your child as soon as the behavior occurs.

Be Consistent

If you don’t expect your child to say “Thank you” today, why should he tomorrow? You do not, and should not, be a drill sergeant, but do make sure you enforce your rules consistently. Otherwise, you may as well not make them at all.

Good manners aren’t an “extra.” They are valuable lessons to teach your child, and it is never too early, or too late, to start!

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    • robhampton profile image

      Rob Hampton 4 years ago from Tampa Bay, Florida

      Excellent hub, well laid out and informative. I love the "pull up your pants" thing! lol.. Keep up the the good work

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Teaching your children some manners creates a mode of behavior for the rest of their lives and will make life, in general, easier for the growing child, and later the adult the child will become.

    • traslochimilano profile image

      traslochimilano 5 years ago from USA

      Nice Tips describe brilliantly to teach good manners to children.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A great hub and a great message. Manners seem to be forgotten in todays society. Teaching a child good manners usually sets the habit of a lifetime. many parents would benefit from reading your hub and following the advice offered.

      Thank you for bringing this important topic to the fore

      Voting up

    • Nicole S profile image

      Nicole S Hanson 5 years ago from Minnesota

      These are amazing tips. I think it is sooo important for kids to learn their manners. I feel like I meet so many children who are not polite, and have not been taught any of the above-mentioned manners. Great hub, this is very much worth sharing!

    • janices7 profile image

      Janice S 5 years ago

      I wholeheartedly agree with Fred Astaire - you can't exactly expect kids to pick up good manners from parents or adults that have bad manners. And it seems, we have plenty of adults in this country think behaving badly is acceptable. Another great topic!

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      This is a great hub - I am sure many families would benefit tremendously if they followed even a fraction of your tips. Setting the example I think is key. With my three kids I think my wife and I are doing a fairly good job, but of course, there is always room for improvement. Great hub, voted up, useful and interesting.

    • SuperHealthySam profile image

      SuperHealthySam 5 years ago

      This is so great! I love this idea! It is so true, you see too many parents who have no manners and no respect, while their kids stand by and watch! They are observing and taking in every thing their parents are doing! We have to show our kids manners in our every day lives to show them how to grow up to be respectful citizens!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      So very important! Great hub! It seems that manners are something that are fading from our daily lives; I love your message.

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