Raising Your Child to Have Good Manners

Consistency is key to instilling good manners in children.
Consistency is key to instilling good manners in children.
TLC

And don't forget good table manners. Kids have a hard enough time remembering household rules. They have an even harder time remembering rules for dinner at home and rules for dinner out, when those sets of rules aren't the same. Some general table manners include no gross jokes, no throwing food, no leaning back while sitting in the chairs, no talking with food in your mouth (including no "see food" jokes)—and definitely no loud belching or passing wind.

Yes, in some cultures belching after a meal is acceptable and even encouraged. However, don't let someone's excuse about practicing multiculturalism sway you. If belching isn't allowed in your family's culture, don't allow it at the table. And if you do happen to burp (and who doesn't?), say, "Excuse me." If you laugh about burping, you've created a family precedent, and your kids will belch and laugh about it the first time they have dinner at a friend's house.

Good manners that you can teach your children include not interrupting people while they talk and not shoving their way in front of others to always be first, two things that kids are infamous for doing.

Other manners you can teach your children include how to:

  • Write thank-you notes
  • Make get-well cards for sick relatives
  • Say please and thank you
  • Acknowledge when someone is talking
  • Say good-bye to someone who is leaving
  • Share cookies with a friend
  • Always give their parents the green M&Ms

Good Manners Begin at Home

A growing problem in schools is the lack of good manners from children. Children don't treat teachers, staff, or classmates with respect. So schools now are teaching good manners and respect in addition to conflict management. And yet, good manners still begin at home and should be taught by parents.

Here are some guidelines that you can use at home:

  • Be kind to others. Telling kids, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," doesn't really mean anything to them. Instead, stress the importance of treating others the same way they'd like to be treated, especially when you see them doing something that you know they themselves don't like. For example, if your son hates to be interrupted and yet he interrupts people, then remind him, "Jonah, you really don't like it when people interrupt you, so please don't do that to Jeremiah."
  • Understand their actions. Help your children understand the harm they can cause by doing or saying thoughtless and unkind things. Ask them, "How would you feel if someone pointed at you, and started to laugh?" In the beginning, you may simply be doing damage control, but eventually you'll be helping them to avoid harmful words or actions.
  • Show them the way. Children do whatever they have to do to express themselves. Sometimes that comes off looking and sounding pretty bad. Playing a role reversal game with your child can help show them how to handle situations. Let them ask the question or behave a certain way, and you respond by showing them how their behavior should appear.

Be a Good Role Model

  • Be a good role model. "Do as I say, but not as I do" is a joke. Your kids probably want to respond with, "Yeah, like you'd catch me playing bridge with a bunch of 50-year-old women!" When you want your child to show good manners and respect, you must also practice good manners and respect. Say please and thank you, admit your mistakes, apologize, and treat people, in general, with kindness and respect. The reward of this behavior is that your children will grow up having many friends and a family that loves being around her.
  • Share. Share with your children so they understand the importance of sharing with others. Compliment them when you see them sharing with others.
  • Keep kids healthy. Children tend to behave badly when they're tired or hungry. Kids need sleep and nutritious foods to survive. It's that simple.
  • Practice family politeness. Everyone in the family must practice "please" and "thank-you" policy in which, for example, no request is considered unless the person asking says "please." When one of your children forgets, just give him or her a look that says, "I'm waiting." They soon catch on. Use the same approach for saying "thank you."
  • Thank-you notes. Teach your children the importance of thanking people for gifts. Show them how to write notes and make sure that they are sent promptly after receiving gifts.
  • Praise good behavior. Praise is a wonderful teacher. Tell your children how proud you are when you notice them being polite and following the "please" and "thank-you" guidelines that you've set.

Excerpted from Parenting For Dummies, 2nd Edition®, published by Wiley Publishing, Inc. For more information on "Parenting For Dummies®", or other books, visit Dummies.com.