Get Your Kids to Mind Their Manners

As you read the local paper, or watch the news, there are ample people bemoaning the loss of manners in today’s young people. But are manners really dead? More likely they are transitioning. Manners morph over time to keep pace with societal changes. Did you know that it was once good manners to spit within a distance where you could put your foot on it? Obviously that edict belongs back in the 1700’s from whence it came.

Today our children are subjected to a barrage of rude behaviors on TV, in song lyrics, in video games and online. If you want your children’s manners to reach a higher standard, how do you counteract those external, powerful influences? You do not have to be Emily Post to encourage good manners in your family. A few simple tips can keep manners and kindness top of mind and spark ideas about customizing manners to suit your family.


  • Explain the why. The essence of good manners is that you respect yourself and the other person. Remind your children of times when someone else has offered them a simple courtesy, such as holding a door, and made them feel valued.



  • Teach greetings for when guests arrive. Decide upon how formal you want to be. You may want a child to stand, shake hands and address visitors. Or maybe you are satisfied with teaching your child to say hello and make eye contact with the visitor, even if they remain seated on the couch. Your rules may vary depending upon the guest.



  • Develop and enforce a technology basket. Declare a ban on electronic use when interacting with another person. Deposit cell phones and mobile devices in the basket so that there is no texting at dinner or when hanging out with family and friends.



  • Request courteous greetings for family members. Say good morning and good night to each family member while making eye contact. This ensures you are all truly present for each other and it may help minimize those teenage grumpy starts to the day.



  • Facilitate promptness and teach this value. Speak to your children about how it feels when people do not arrive on time when they are the person waiting. If you notice that tardiness is a chronic issue for your family, look at your level of organization and your number of commitments. Maybe a few changes to the family schedule would have you feeling less rushed.



  • Protect privacy. Teach your children to speak softly when they are having conversations in public places, whether they are speaking with a person face-to-face or via cell phone. This will protect their privacy and is less disruptive to others.



  • Teach elevator etiquette. Let everyone exit before you enter. Practice this a few times with small children and they will remember the rule for life. Find a floor with reduced traffic or go at less busy times and repeat until they master it. Then take your show on the road. Make it a fun game.



  • Remind them to follow the leader. If your child is in a new situation, say at a friend’s house for dinner and the table is set “fancy,” suggest that they sit back and watch what their host does. That way they know they are following the expectations of that household. This rule comes in handy for grownups, too, because we don’t know the rules in every situation and it is OK to admit that.



  • Encourage the holding of doors. When you are out in public, model and teach the kind act of holding the door for the person entering behind you, or the person who looks like they could use the help. Smile and say thank you to anyone who does the same. Your children will see that it feels good to interact so positively with others.



  • Teach them about selfishness. Why are manners good for them? People who are kind are more desirable to be around. Your children are more likely to get repeat invitations when they practice good manners. Manners are also good for self-esteem because we all feel better about ourselves when we are doing the right thing.