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Teaching Good Manners

By Elizabeth Pantley
Reprinted by permission of Elizabeth Pantley, author of Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips and Kid Cooperation - Copyright 1999

Good manners are a very important key to your child's social success, but no child is born with good manners. Teaching them is a parents responsibility.

Beyond teaching 'please' and 'thank you' many parents aren't sure how to teach their child good manners. Teaching a child what behavior is expected is a daily process, and you'll have many opportunities each day to nudge your child in the right direction. Keep these points in mind:

Teach, don't reprimand.

It's easy to assume that your child is purposely using bad manners, when in fact, he just needs a lesson or two. Be specific when you teach your child, and remember that many follow-up lessons will benecessary. So instead of saying, "Don't be so rude!" you can respond this way, "It's impolite to belch at the table, but if you do, it's proper to say 'excuse me'."


When your child states her feelings in a less-than-polite way, you can rephrase what she's already said in the way you find acceptable. So if she says, "Yuck! I hate this green stuff!" You can politely correct her by saying, "What I'd like to hear you say is, 'I don't care for spinach'."

Tell what you DO want.

When your child is displaying bad manners avoid nagging about the problem, "Don't yell in the house!" Instead, teach what you DO want, "Please use a quiet voice." This method will keep you more calm and in control, and will give your child an instruction to follow.

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Accept mistakes.

When kids are young they will spill and drop. It takes time to acquire the motor skills necessary to be neat and tidy. Children will make social blunders. It takes maturity to learn how to act in social situations. Accept age-appropriate mistakes for what they are: simple childishness.

Correct privately.

As annoying as your child's lack of manners may be, resist the urge to reprimand him in front of other people. Making a scene as you attempt to teach your child proper manners, is, well, bad manners!

Prepare in advance.

Whether you are planning a visit to a friend's home, a night out at the movies or dinner at a restaurant, take time before you go to coach your child on the behavior you expect. Review the 'rules' of good manners and you'll more likely experience a pleasant time.

Expect good manners.

When you know your child has learned the proper way to behave it's important to expect those good manners. For example, if you've reminded your six-year-old to say 'please' and 'thank-you' since he was two, you should expect him to apply what he's learned. Be consistent. Require good manners every day. Remind gently. And over time you'll find your children turning into proper ladies and gentlemen.

Reprinted by permission of Elizabeth Pantley, author of Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips and Kid Cooperation - Copyright 1999

© Elizabeth Pantley
Elizabeth Pantley is a author and parent educator and frequently quoted expert who presents lectures across the United States. She is the mother of four children. Check out her website at! Her newsletter, "In Touch With Elizabeth Pantley," provices valuable parenting tidbits and advice, plus advance notice of book releases and appearances. Sign up at her site!


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