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The "Manners Cooldown" - a New Way to Teach Manners to Your Kids

Updated on December 30, 2018
Time Spiral profile image

A single father of daughters. I've had to learn a lot along the way--and I had to learn it fast. Sharing what I've learned with you.

The "Manners Cooldown" technique, by Time Spiral
The "Manners Cooldown" technique, by Time Spiral

Manners Cooldown - a New Way to Teach Manners to Your Kids

Super-simple manners training for your kids. You won’t believe how easy it is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my little ones from a playdate and the friend’s Mom says, “your children have excellent manners! We’re struggling a bit with ours.” This is usually accompanied with a nervous chuckle and a non-verbal look that says, “what did you do to get your kids so well-mannered?” I beam with pride every time this happens, by the way.

That’s when I tell them about the “Manners Cooldown”. A super-simple method that trains your kids to use their manners on their own. And it works. Every time I explain the system I see the look of “oh wow, that makes so much sense,” usually followed up with, “I’m going to try that!”

It’s happened enough times now that I’ve finally said to myself, “Okay. It’s time to write the guide for the Manners Cooldown and share it with the world.” So here we are. Get ready to learn the manners training method that I’ve come up. Don’t worry. It’s easy!

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Preface from the Author: I’m a single father of two young daughters. I’ve had to learn a lot. Literally YouTubing videos of “how to brush girls’ hair”. Turns out I was doing it wrong! Ha. You start from the bottom, and separate the hair into sections. So basic … anyway. Among the important elements of child raising, two have floated to the surface for me as being particularly important: (1) how to not have a picky eater, and (2) how to have well-mannered children. In this guide we’re going to talk about the Manners Cooldown. A method I developed for training your kids to be extremely well-mannered.

Please keep in mind. I’m not a healthcare professional. I’m not a child psychologist. I’m just some guy trying to make it all work, and I stumbled across a gem. And now I’m sharing it with you. Parents ought to stick together, eh?!

Oh, and most of the examples have to do with a cookie. This is just for simplicity while building examples.

Principles of the Manners Cooldown technique

The Manners Cooldown technique revolves around a few principles:

  1. You do not tell your child to use their manners.

  2. Your child must choose to use their manners unprompted.

  3. Your child must understand the rules of manners.

  4. There is a time penalty for failing ← this is the “cooldown”.

  5. You stick to the rules.

I don’t expect those principles to make perfect sense to you yet. Some of them may even be counter-intuitive. Good. You need to read the how-to section next in order for it to all make sense. And when it clicks you will see why this works.

At the core of the technique, is the “cooldown” [...] a term used in the gaming industry that defines: the interval of time required before you can do the same thing again.

— Time Spiral, author of the Manner's Cooldown

How To Do the Manners Cooldown Technique With Your Children

Below is a how-to step-by-step guide to using the Manners Cooldown technique with your children. Don’t worry if the “why” of each step doesn’t make sense to you yet. Below this section there is a another section that breaks down the “why” of each part. That might sound like a lot, but really, manners training is a lesson that will grant your children (and you) lifelong benefits.

  1. Explain the rules of manners to your children.

    1. “If you would like someone to do something for you, you say ‘please’.”

    2. “If someone does something for you, you say ‘thank you’.”

    3. “If you would like to interrupt a conversation, you say ‘excuse me’.”

    4. “If you would like to leave a scenario (the dinner table, for instance), you ask, ‘may I please be excused’.”

    5. “If someone thanks you for something you say, ‘you’re welcome’.”

  2. If your child does not use their manners your answer to them is “No,” and then you say, “you can ask again in five minutes.”

    1. “Daddy, can I have a cookie?” says my daughter.


      “Why can’t I have a cookie?” (you will almost always get a “why?” response)

      “Why do you think I said no?”

      “Because I didn’t use my manners?”

      “That’s correct.”

      “May I please have a cookie?”

      “No. You can ask again in five minutes.” ← The five minutes is the cooldown

    2. You’re walking through a supermarket and the bakery gives away free cookies to the kids. The nice baker asks, “would you girls like a cookie?”

      “I want a chocolate chip cookie!” says the oldest.

      “I want sprinkles!” says the youngest.

      Naturally the kids are excited. Cookies?! Who wouldn’t be. The baker hands them cookies. The kids snatch them up and get ready to eat them. But before they take that first glorious kid-heaven bite, I quickly (and gently) take both cookies from them. The kids look up, shocked, their faces contorted in pure protest.

      “Dad, why did you take my cookie!”

      “Why do you think I took the cookies?”

      “Because we didn’t use our manners?”


      “May I please have my cookie?”

      “No. You can ask again in five minutes.” ← The five minutes is the cooldown

  3. If your child is struggling with the concept, reiterate the rules of manners to them.

    1. “Dad, I don’t understand why you’re saying no right now.”

      “That person just did something nice for you.”

      She realizes her mistake. “Oh. Thank you. Now can I go?”

      “No. You can ask again in five minutes.”

  4. If the child returns after a few minutes (close enough to five minutes) and uses their manners you reward them with an answer of “yes”.

    1. There’s a caveat here that will be discussed later.

  5. Every time your child uses their manners you say, “thank you for using your manners.”

Did the “Manners Cooldown” technique work for you?

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1st of the 5 principles of the Manner's Cooldown technique
1st of the 5 principles of the Manner's Cooldown technique

Why does the Manners Cooldown work?

Don’t implement the Manners Cooldown without reading this section.

In this section we’re going to breakdown each principle of the Manners Cooldown technique and why each of them are so important, and why they work. But really, at the core of the technique, is the “cooldown”. If you’re not familiar with that term, you might be thinking it means to “cool off” or “cool down” after you’ve become irritated or hot with anger, but that is not at all what that term means. “Cooldown” is a term used in the gaming industry that defines: the interval of time required before you can do the same thing again.

Example of a cooldown in gaming: Your character knows how to cast a fireball. You cast a fireball. You want to cast another fireball. But you can’t, because that spell has a 30-second cooldown. You have to wait 30 seconds to use the fireball again. The brilliance here? You have to remember after 30 seconds has passed to use the fireball. If you don’t remember, you don’t cast the spell. See where this is going as it relates to manners?

1st principle: You do not tell your child to use their manners.

We’ve all seen it. Numerous examples of what looks like futile manners training. The kid doesn’t use their manners and the parent whips down and says, “use your manners!” Then the kid, looking chastised (or sometimes amused), says, “please!” But they’re not using their manners. They’re following a command. Big difference compared to them choosing to use their manners of their own volition.

The little one doesn’t say thank you and the well-intentioned father looks down and says, “say thank you!” Naturally, the little one says, “thank you!” But they’re not choosing to use their manners here. They’re responding to the demands of an authority figure.

The little one grabs the cookie and the grandmother says, “you didn’t say the magic word!” Usually, the little one will say “please!” But are they choosing to use their manners here? No. They’re responding to a game where the rules are when someone says “the magic word” they know that means “please” or “thank you”. Are we teaching our kids manners or magic?

2nd principle: Your child must choose to use their manners unprompted.

You want your child to want to use their manners. This is why the first principle is so important. You can’t tell them, command them, or demand that they use their manners. They have to choose to do it. Otherwise the “why” of it won’t stick. It won’t be their choice; it will be a rule they must follow.

Personally, my children don’t have to use their manners. But they won’t get what they want if they choose to not use their manners. Every time.

And really, that’s what manners are all about. Us grown-ups like to think it’s about being civil, or polite, or proper, but that’s a bunch of bull%$#@. And we know it. Put simple: manners are a way to get what you want. That’s it. For a child, breaking it down to that basic desire makes sense. “Using your manners gives you the best chance to get what you want. If you don’t use your manners, you might not get what you want.”

3rd principle: Your child must understand the rules of manners.

In order for a child to choose to use their manners they must understand the rules surrounding the manners. What conditions require a “please” or a “thank you” or an “excuse me” or a “may I please be excused” or a “you’re welcome”. And what happens if I succeed or fail to follow the rules?

In the Manners Cooldown system we do not tell our children to use their manners. But we do tell them why their request has failed if they ask. And sometimes children need gentle reminders. Not commands, but observations, “Son, that person just did something nice for you.” This is not a command. This is an observation. Your son can then think to himself, “oh, I’m supposed to use my manners,” and then choose whether or not to do it.

4th principle: There is a time penalty for failing ← this is the “cooldown”

This is the cornerstone of the Manners Cooldown technique.

Break the rules of manners and you have to wait five minutes before you can try again. Not ten seconds. Not thirty seconds. Not two minutes. Five.

In this time your child is thinking. They’re processing what happened. They’re trying to figure out why they failed and what is the best way to get what they want. If you stick to the rules, they will inevitably come to the conclusion: “I have to use my manners to get what I want. Okay. I’m going to wait five minutes and then try again. But this time I cannot forget to use my manners!”

See what’s happening here? You’re not telling them to not forget. They’re telling themselves not to forget. They’re choosing. Waiting. Then acting. And that’s the key.

5th principle: You stick to the rules.

Children respond to consistency. Heck, I guess we all do, right? If not using your manners sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t then that’s confusing. The connection isn’t clear.

If your child doesn’t use their manners the answer is “no”. End of story.

If your child waits the five minutes, comes back, says “please”, and you give them the cookie and then they don’t say “thank you”, then you have take the cookie back. Repeat the cooldown until they get it right. If they never get it right, they never get the cookie. Sorry. Tough world, kid.

But there is a second meaning to this principle. You have to follow the rules too. Every time. Even when talking with your kids. You’re not above the law. Nobody is above the law. If you want your children to use their manners then you need to be that example, especially when interacting with them.

2nd of the 5 principles of the Manners Cooldown
2nd of the 5 principles of the Manners Cooldown

Notes and Observations

I’ve been using the Manners Cooldown technique since I came up with it a few years ago. It’s remarkable how well it works. So remarkable that I decided to write this guide for all of you! But having done it for a few years I can share with you some observations.


Sometimes your child will forget their manners and when you say “no” the result is a full freakout. Now you have a melt down on your hands. This sucks and there is no way around it. But whatever you do, don’t fold and give the kid the damn cookie. In this situation you can do a bit more explaining. “Look, I want you to have the cookie too. I didn’t want to take it away. But you didn’t use your manners and now you have to wait. Those are the rules. All you have to do is wait and try again. You can do it!” Some situations get pretty hairy, in which case the “five minute” standard is a bit too long. Don’t let it be less than a minute, but you can reduce the time a little bit in some scenarios and it will still be effective.

“But I used my manners!” says the kid.

I call this the “first time” syndrome. What is going to happen is that you’re going to try this method, they will fail to use their manners, you will say they have to wait and they will immediately say “please” (or whatever manners they forgot). At that point you will have to say “no” again because they didn’t follow the rules and wait for the correct amount of time. They will say, “but I just used my manners, Dad!” That’s when you have to say, “but you didn’t use them the first time. That’s why you have to wait. In order to get what you want you have to use your manners the first time. Sorry!”

There is a second use of “but I used my manners!” Sometimes your child will come up to you, out of the blue, and say, “Daddy, may I please have a cookie?” And your answer is “no” for a reason that is not related to manners. And they will say, “But I used my manners!” That’s when you need to explain, “Yes you did. Thank you for using your manners. But using your manners doesn’t always mean that you get what you want.” Then explain why they can’t have the cookie. I usually like to add the lesson: don’t ask a question if you’re not prepared for the answer to be a “no” or something you don’t want to hear (adults could learn from this one too).

“Why do you think I said no?”

It’s important that when they fail you don’t immediately respond with, “you didn’t use your manners.” Ask them why they think that you said no. If they get it wrong, use a gentle observational prompt. If they still can’t figure it out, it’s okay to tell them, “I said no because you didn’t use your manners.” But really, this shouldn’t happen much except for maybe in the beginning. They will quickly learn that a “no” is usually because they messed up their manners.

The kids become manners police (i.e., success!)

This is a sign that you’ve succeeded. If you have multiple children, you will notice that they start to police each other. Toy exchanges, turns in a game, and play sessions can sour quickly because one child forgets to use their manners and the other one calls them on it and implements a cooldown. I’ve seen it, many times, and it’s awesome! While incredibly frustrating for the child who has their manners on cooldown. Ha. Sometimes they will ask you to arbitrate, in which case, just stick to the rules and you’ll be fine.

But sometimes they catch you. You will forget your manners and they will say “no” to you and say, “you didn’t use your manners. You have to wait.” And you know what? They’re right. You have to wait. Suck it up, wait, and try again. This is powerful. The reinforcement that happens here in your child’s mind is super valuable.

If they can police manners, and implement a cooldown, then you have yourself a manners expert. Success. You’ve done it!


You don’t want to see your kids fail, and you definitely don’t want a meltdown. So in some situations you may notice that your child has forgotten to use their manners. Remember the first principle! You cannot tell them what to do. Offer a gentle observation and let them figure it out.

“Oh wow, that person just did something really nice for you.”

“Is that really how you want to ask that question?”

Whatever your approach, don’t be specific, but allude to the rules. This allows them to make the connection to the rules and figure out the best path to success. But if it doesn’t click, and they fail to use their manners: tough. The answer must be “no”. Try again in five minutes.


There you have it! Follow this guide and you will be getting beaming reviews about your kid’s manners in no time. It’s called the “Manners Cooldown”. It’s simple. Effective. And will become part of your daily lives.

Use this guide. Reference it. Read it a couple of times until you feel you have it down.

I truly hope this helps you! As parents, we need help. Raising children is difficult. If you found this manner training system effective, please leave a comment or share it with your fellow parents. I would love to hear about your stories with the Manners Cooldown in the comments. Also, please come back and fill out the polls. I want to know if this works for you, and so will other readers.

Thank you all, and good luck out there!

Thanks for trying the Manners Cooldown technique! Leave a comment.
Thanks for trying the Manners Cooldown technique! Leave a comment.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Time Spiral


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