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How to Teach Children Good Manners

Article by Erin A. Kurt, B.Ed.

Good manners are the backbone of a civilized society and make interacting with people a joy. Manners also create a strong first impression, and they pave the way to good jobs, smooth relations with family and friends, and an easier time out in the real world. The lesson here? Make it a priority to teach your children the manners suggested below before they turn thirteen.

Here are some basic manners you might want to consider:


1. Saying “Please” and “Thank you” should be as automatic as breathing.

2. Teach your children to apologize when they’ve done something wrong. (“What do you say to Matthew?” gives freedom for sincere expression rather than the rote “Tell Matthew you’re sorry.”)

3. When your kids receive a gift, teach then to write a thank-you note.


1. Teach your kids how to make a proper introduction: “Mom, I’d like you to meet my friend Laura.”

2. Children should stand when meeting or greeting an adult.

3. Teach kids to introduce themselves. They can start with their friends’ parents. “Hi, Mrs. Beatty. My name is Maria.”

4. A handshake is proper upon introduction. Kissing is generally for relatives and close friends, and it’s their perogative if your children don’t want to be kissed. Teach then to politely avoid the kiss rather than to grimace or say “Yuck.”

5. “It’s nice to meet you,” is impressive coming from a child, so go ahead and teach it.


1. At the end of your child’s visit to a friend’s house, he should make a special point of thanking his friend’s parents.


1. Turn the TV off or mute the sound during a conversation.

2. “What?” or “Huh?” are unacceptable forms of the much more polite “Pardon?” or “What did you say?”

3. Don’t allow your kids to say “Shut up” to anyone.

Teaching manners is actually quite simple, but it requires two things: repetition and modelling. You as the parent must model these manners always. It is not okay for you to expect your children to say and do them but you yell “What???” up the stairs to your husband, wife or child. This is the part I love about good parenting – it forces you to grow as a person.

Let’s look at how modelling and repetition work. When your child is a baby you begin saying “Give the spoon to mommy, please. Thank you, Sweety.”

If your child wants to do something like help buckle himself into a carseat or help you chop vegetables or even picks something off the floor, be sure to say, “Thank you for helping mommy. I really appreciate that.” You need to find every opportunity possible to say a meaningful please and a heart felt thank you.

Another great tip is that when your child says “thank you” or “please”, be sure to tell someone about it in front of your child. He/She doesn’t need to be a part of the discussion, but even if they are in the general vicinity, you can bet they will hear and truly feel proud of themself.

I like to retell the day to my husband as we eat dinner. I use this time to throw in those special compliments like, “Emre and I went to the grocery store today and when the cashier lady gave him some playing cards he said a big “Thank You!” to her. I was very proud of him. Then my husband would say, “Wow, that’s our boy. Good for you, Emre”.

When your child grows older and you have dinner guests coming over, speak to him or her beforehand about how you greet people when guests come to your house. For example:

“Jenny, dad and I would like to talk to you for a minute. Come meet us in our bedroom. Tonight Mr. and Mrs. Richardson are coming over for dinner. So, when they ring the door bell, dad and I expect you to come to the door with us to greet them. When we greet someone we say, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Jenny.” and then shake their hand.

After this explanation, show what you mean by doing an example with your husband. Teach your child which hand to use and which hand to shake. Get them to practice and then say, “Well done. That was very polite. Thanks, Jenny.”

Remember, the most powerful teacher is modelling. If your child sees and hears you and your husband doing and saying things over and over again, that is what becomes their normal. They just simply know that in this circumstance this is said, and in this other circumstance that is said.

It’s always much simpler to establish good manners than it is to break bad ones, so start modelling early and praise often. Then, be prepared to hear what a delightful child you have over and over again.

Erin Kurt, B.Ed, spent 16 years as a teacher and nanny around the world. Now, she applies her expertise as a parenting expert and author of Juggling Family Life and The Life Balance Formula. You can learn more about Erin and her simple, loving parenting method, and subscribe to her weekly parenting tips e-zine at You’ll also receive Erin’s free video series “8 Secrets to Stress-Free Parenting”, packed with parentings tips!

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