Manners Matter

Teach kids manners for life.

Want to open doors for your children for the rest of their lives? Teach them manners. Simple etiquette and common courtesy pave the way for positive interactions, good relationships, and professional and social success. Manners really do matter. This basic skill will serve your children for the rest of their lives.

Introducing Manners

It’s never too early to start teaching manners, just like it’s never too early to start house-training a puppy. Wait too long and you’re bound to end up with unbreakable habits.

The magic window for introducing manners is between the ages of 18 months and 5 years—when your child is interested in pleasing you and wants to do as you say and do. Waiting until after age 5 to introduce manners can have disastrous results and can lead to lots of pleading and nagging as you try to undo the bad habits that have developed.

First Steps toward Manners

 

If you want good manners to be an automatic habit for your kids, ingrain the habit from the start. Many parents today use sign language with their kids during the early language stages. Once your child has a working grasp of signs like food, eat, milk, and more, they’re ready to learn and use the signs for please and thank you.

When your child asks for milk, you introduce the sign for please before handing over the milk and then continue to teach it until it’s a habit he/she uses every time he/she makes a request. By teaching your children to use please and thank you when making requests, you’re helping them develop a habit of polite manners. They’re too young to understand why this is important—they’ll learn that later—but it can still become a habit, and a good one at that.

Building on Manners

As your kids grow beyond sign language and high chairs, you can start teaching and modeling manners more intentionally. Etiquette education is often associated with lots of lecturing, nagging, criticizing, and eye rolling—but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, if you start with your manners indoctrination early and consistently, it shouldn’t be a chore at all. Here are a few keys to raising a well-mannered (and well-liked) child:

  • Model manners: Face it—kids learn by example. They do what we do. Be a model of good manners—not just with others, but with your children as well. Use polite, kind words when speaking with your kids; say please and thank you; avoid interrupting—in short, treat them the way you want them to treat you and others.
  • Be consistent: Good manners are not something we should turn on or off at our convenience—they’re a lifelong skill that we should use at all times. Too often, parents make excuses for poor behavior and manners, such as “She’s tired” or “He’s hungry.” These excuses don’t help your children develop consistent good manners. As adults, we’re expected to use good manners even when we’re tired and hungry. Demand good manners all the time and you’ll raise well-mannered children who turn into well-mannered—and well-liked—adults.

To learn more about teaching manners, see our basic guide to age appropriate manners.