Practicing Manners Makes Them Perfect

Practice manners with your kids for optimal success.

Manners don’t come naturally to kids; they have to be taught. And teaching manners isn’t enough—if you want your child to be a model of manners, practice makes perfect. The best way to set your child up for success is to intentionally teach and practice manners and behaviors they will need to use in real-world settings. As a new scenario is introduced, you introduce the corresponding set of manners and practice them ahead of time. Below are a few common scenarios:

Restaurant Behavior and Table Manners

No one expects a 2-year-old to have impeccable restaurant behavior (although other patrons sure do appreciate it). However, as your child grows older, it’s time for him/her to learn how to behave appropriately in this public setting. You can practice this at home:

  • Teach the basic components of restaurant behavior, such as staying seated; using a quiet, indoor voice; using proper table manners.
  • Play restaurant at home. Make a game of it by bringing out the candles and the fancy place settings. You could even create a menu. Tell your child, “We’re going out to eat in a restaurant later this week, so let’s practice our restaurant manners tonight.” This provides a safe setting in which your child can practice the basics.
  • Coach and quiz your child ahead of time: “We’re going to a restaurant in a few minutes—what are some of the manners you’ll need to use?”
  • Prior to entering the restaurant, tell your child “We need to use our best restaurant manners or else we’ll have to leave.” Be sure to follow through on this. If the restaurant behavior is disastrous, don’t make a big deal out of it. Instead, calmly say, “It looks like we need to practice our restaurant manners some more before we’re ready to eat out. Let’s go home and finish our dinner there.” Get your check and make a hasty exit so your child understands that manners are important and there are consequences for not using them.

Play Dates

Believe it or not, there will come a time when your child is ready for play dates that don’t involve you hovering in the background. If you want your child to have successful social interactions, you’ll teach him/her how to be a host and a guest.

Prior to hosting a guest, practice with your child by role-playing. You can be the guest who shows up and rings the doorbell. A few things to practice:

  • Answering the door and greeting a guest
  • Taking someone’s coat
  • Offering a drink or a snack
  • Asking a guest what activity he/she would like to play
  • Sharing toys
  • Saying a proper goodbye

Prior to being a guest, you can reverse the role-play and practice good guest behavior. A few things to practice:

  • Greeting the host
  • Respecting other people’s property
  • Wiping feet, removing shoes, hanging up coats, etc.
  • Using a respectful indoor voice
  • Using please and thank you
  • Saying a proper goodbye, complete with “Thank you for having me.”

Phone Manners

Phone manners are a critical lifelong skill. Most kids love playing phone, so phone manners are fun and easy to practice. Grab two telephones and have fun practicing placing and receiving phone calls. A few things to practice:

Receiving Calls:

  • Establish how you want your child to answer the phone and practice. (“Smith residence;” or “Hello”; or “Hello, this is Johnny”)
  • Practice responses: “Yes, just a minute please. May I tell her who is calling?” as opposed to “Hold on.”
  • Practice retrieving the recipient of the call. (e.g. walking into the other room rather than shouting)
  • Practice taking messages: “She’s not available at the moment. May I take a message?”

Placing Calls:

  • Practice placing calls with polite manners: “Hi this is Johnny calling. May I speak with Sally?” sounds much better than “Is Sally there?”