Having good manners comes from using them. Five tips for kids.

I was given an opportunity to write about how to make a home a secure and stable environment for kids, thus creating a good atmosphere for learning.  I have thought long and hard about the topic, and what I was going to write about.  The purpose of having a secure and stable environment is to help reach the goal of raising secure and stable people.

I joke around about what stinkers my boys are, but they really, really are good guys and I am very proud of them.

Not to toot our collective parenting horn, but Handsome Hubby and I are both on the same page when it comes to expectations about manners and courtesy, and I think it shows.  Our boys are pretty comfortable in almost any social setting and we are fairly confident that they will not embarrass us.  (Let’s be honest… as parents, isn’t that sometimes our immediate goal?)

HH is fond of saying, “Kids are as smart as they’re ever going to be.”  What he means by that is that they have infinite capacity for learning at all ages… and that it is never too early to start teaching.
Dave Barry said, “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.”     It’s obvious what he means by that.

Manners are a measure of respect for those around you.   Good manners are learned as the result of good habits. They aren’t something that are to be taken out and used for special occasions, they are for everyday.  It is only if you use them everyday that you comfortably use them when you “really need to.”

(Oh, and by the way?  Humor helps.)

Check out more healthy routines HERE
1.  Sit down and eat dinner as a family as often as you can.  The more often you create this “social setting” the more comfortable your kids will be away from home.  Turn off the TV, unplug and sit down.
  • Cook one meal.  –  You’d be mortified if you were at someone’s home for dinner and your child told the hostess, “I don’t like this food. I want a hot dog instead.”  You are not a short order cook and the world is not your child’s personal smorgasbord.  I’m not a You Must Clean Your Plate kind of mom, but I am the Thank You For Trying One Bite kind.   Unless your child has a food allergy, there is no reason this shouldn’t be your policy from early on.  (Unless you like raising finicky kids and cooking multiple meals at a time, then knock yourself out.)
  • If you say grace or give a toast at the beginning of each meal, have your kids take a turn.  –  Being ready to say grace if asked, or to give a simple toast is an often over-looked, but important skill.   (And little kid grace is adorable.  Conner used to say “God is great to my lettuce” instead of God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food.)

2.  Eat like a Human Being.  If kids are eating like wolves, it’s because their mamas let them.  Kids are never too young to learn basics.  The parents who opt to let meals be a free-for-all for the little kids get frustrated when the child reaches an age where they should “know better.”  Or they are embarrassed when their kids don’t act properly in public.  That’s so not fair to your kids.  Start early.

  • Sit up straight.  Things I say on a regular basis:  “Please bring your food up to your mouth, not your mouth down to the food.” along with “You have a skeleton, and I promise that it will hold you up.”  Good posture just plain old looks better.
  • Elbows off the table, napkin in your lap.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full or chew with your mouth open.  Nobody likes See Food.  (Well… boys think it’s funny, but you want to nip that action in the bud ASAP.)

3. Say please and thank you.  –  We are often more polite to strangers than we are to the people we live with.  That’s wrong.  Always using please and thank you conveys everyday appreciation and respect, as well as makes it second nature for your kids when they are away from you.  (And you’re not around to shoot them the Stinky Eyeball for not using them.)

4. Talk with your kids at the dinner table about a variety of subjects.  –  We never need a conversation prompt, but don’t be afraid to use one.  The more your kids can take part in conversation, the more they develop good communication skills and the more comfortable they will be in other social settings.  One of the things we have noticed is that our boys have ZERO problem sitting down and carrying on conversations with adults.  We get have gotten many comments about how easily they engage in conversation, and they are just as comfortable at the Big Table as they are at the Kids’ Table.  (They also learn how much of a it bummer it is to be interrupted and are less likely to do it to others.)

5. After dinner…? Your kids should clean the kitchen.  –  As soon as your child is old enough to toddle over and toss their dish in the sink, you are teaching them that they are capable of “pitching in” to help.  Age appropriate tasks teach them them that they are part of a team, and helping to clean up after dinner shows an appreciation for the cook.  One of the best moments you will have as a parent is when some other mom says “Your boys were so helpful! They hopped right up and helped out in the kitchen.”

(sniff. So proud.)

None of this is a condemnation of anyone’s parenting style, so much as it’s a recommendation that yields positive results.

What do you think?

As a member of Clever Girls Collective, I was selected to participate in the Healthy Habits program sponsored by Kimberly-Clark and Colgate-Palmolive. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own. #healthyhabits #cgc



  1. says

    I totally agree with your list. Our 2 boys, now grown men, know exactly how to behave at the table, in the kitchen and in a restaurant.
    Please and thank you fall naturally from their mouths no matter where they are.
    Try as we might our one son “schmutzes” as my Latvian mother-in-law calls it. He makes a smacking sound when he eats. He tries to stop but next thing you know you can hear him.
    If that is the worst of his manners then we will live with it.
    I am also a firm believer that whoever cooks should not be cleaning up and my husband has always been the one to start clearing the table with the boys helping after I cooked dinner.

  2. says

    Ahh it’s so amazing how much putting these things into motion early on can make. Sometimes I think “how many times do I have to tell you to do this” BUT I saw hope a few weeks ago. Finally without being told my son will go wash his hands after eating WITHOUT being told! It’s a miracle and only a small thing… but hey. It’s something and it goes to show if you keep it consistent it will happen… some things you just have to be consistent with longer to see the results ; ) Great tips!

  3. says

    I 100% agree with everything you said. Sadly we have strayed from family meals, when we are together it’s usually at a restaurant, softball is truly all consuming!

    I refuse to let my girls talk with food pushed to the side of their mouth, it is ranked in my top 5 pet-peeves!

    I once took Peanuts utensils away for a week for her failure to use them after repeated reminders. Chicken and yellow rice with black beans and spaghetti were just a few things on the weeks menu. I feel it’s safe to say she learned her lesson!

  4. says

    I wish this could be reposted into every school newsletter in the country. These all seem like such simple things, that you would think any parent who loves their children would be doing, but nope! In my (not humble) opinion there are far too many parents who bend to their children’s demands and whims, dinner is a restaurant where the children are the customers, good social manners such as “thank you” and “please” are only taught when the parent notices in public the child did not use these words. I think so often parents forget that they are raising their children so they can send them into the world to contribute to society and help make the world a better place. Such a spot on, timely post. Thanks!

  5. says

    Viv I love your list! Over the summer we have become a little lax over eating dinner as a family at the table. We have been eating in tv room while watching Olympics. While that is fun my kids are letting their manners slide just a bit. We need to get back at the table for dinner.

  6. says

    Excellent post, Viv! I wholeheartedly agree. Manners are really important to me…my parents stressed them from an early age. (I wish hubby’s family had done the same!) I cook one meal, and if it’s something too spicy for the kids, I just keep a portion of it aside so that theirs doesn’t have the spice. Easy peasy.

  7. says

    Great stuff! I need to hear this. Having dinner with my college age step daughters tonight, and this post will be on my mind.

    You are so right about how we are nicer to strangers than our own families. Ouch!

  8. says

    My weekend kids (well, the bf’s offspring we have around at weekends) are generally good kids and will do stuff that they know will prompt a positive response (getting rid of your plate, tossing trash in the bin rather than leaving it for posterity, simple stuff like that) but I feel that at 5 and 9, they are WAY behind. Eating like pigs? Um, yes, please! This always rubs me the wrong way, because I was taught to behave myself in a way that would not embarrass me and any adults around me when out in public.
    I think that it’s mostly done by “do as I do” and thanking them for things they do without being prompted. You are right, please and thanks seem to get used a lot less at home that out in the wild, and it’s a shame. It’s easy for me to moan that the boss at work only notices a bad job, but never rewards a job well done, so I’d be daft to be the same with the little ones.
    In all honesty, if those two were mine, they’d be at least laying the table and washing up dishes (the little one could put away things in drawers) by now, but blessed be the little joys like disposing of their plates in the sink… *sigh*

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