“My Child Has Bad Manners — What Can I Do?”

Posted March 13, 2009 by

We all want our children to have good manners, but it can be a hard thing to teach them at times!  I think you should start early with kids — manners can and should be taught to children as soon as they begin to talk.  (Saying “please” and “thank you” are the basics.) I’ve found that parents who model good manners in front of their children often see them beginning to use appropriate manners on their own.

If your child has bad manners, try implementing some of the “Manners Matter” list below.  Don’t be afraid to over-exaggerate your good manners in front of your child.  Let you child know that good manners are important.

Manners Matter

* The first step in helping your child to develop good manners is to identify or make a list of good manners.  A manners list can be written for the home, friend’s homes, school, eating establishments, sporting activities and other places that you allow your child to frequent.  Place the list in a place where you and the child can easily refer to them.  Have your child help write or draw up the lists.

* When your child is displaying poor manners, don’t lecture — teach.  For example: Show your child by wiping your own mouth with a napkin that that’s the appropriate thing to do, instead of using the side of an arm.  Be positive while you are teaching!

* Review your child’s school discipline policy.  Many school rules are set up so that their students display appropriate manners.  For example, schools do not allow their students to walk on tables, throw food and talk when others are talking.  These manner rules can help you reinforce your own manner guidelines at home.

* Teach your child appropriate signals or body language (other than your voice) to remind them to use good manners.  For example, placing your finger on your ear may be used to help remind the child to listen to others while they talk.  Rubbing your lip may be used to remind the child to slow down when eating food.

* Do not be afraid to remove your child from a setting if he or she continues to display bad manners.  Dismiss the child from the dinner table after you have reminded the child of the need to use good manners.

* Children may commonly choose to use inappropriate language when they are with their peers.  Let your child know that this is unacceptable behavior and poor manners.

* Do not encourage your child to use bad manners by laughing at them after they burp, act silly at an inappropriate time, pr make a funny face when someone is serious.  This only teaches the child to use poor manners.

* Always take the time to review the good manner lists before going to the grocery store, someone’s house for dinner, sporting events and other places that your child may attend.

With some practice and coaching on your part, you’ll see your child go from having less-than-perfect manners, to being ready for all the social occasions coming up this spring and summer. Good luck!


Scott Wardell has been a school counselor and educator for 34 years. He is the creator of SteadyParent.com: a parenting website devoted to assisting parents searching for solutions that lead to positive parenting outcomes while raising child, teens and young adults.

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  1. Rob Report

    I have 15 mo lil girl. I want the best for her and for her to grow up to be the nicest polite girl parents ever had. Your tips are appreciated first time dad and mom.

  2. Travis Report

    When I first married my wife, she already had two boys who were 9 and 12 at that time. I did not care for some of their bad habits such as saying “yeah” and “nah” when answering questions, not wearing a napkin during meals, etc. I put a stop to the bad manners by insisting they use the terms “sir” and “ma’am” when addressing an adult. They learned table manners, got neat hair cuts etc. We battled on this for a short period of time but they knew I meant business and would not tolerate anything else. Today I have a great relationship with both boys. The oldest is in college and the youngest is in high school. I would say we are very close as a family although I am just the step-dad. The oldest son calls me everyday from college. Parents need to set the expectations and the rules and when children know what is expected, they tend to excel.

  3. Ashley Report

    Manners are extremely important. They show respect towards others and let others see how you carry yourself. The sooner you begin teaching manners to your kids, the quicker they will pick it up and eventually it will become natural to them.

    For example, when I was growing up, I remember that if I had something to say to an adult it was always yes mam/no mam or yes sir/no sir and my parents would make me repeat it untill I said it. Now I have people tell me all the time, “you dont have to say that” to me becuase its such a habit. Anytime Im speaking to someone older than myself I use those words as a sign of respect.

  4. basia Report

    kids have to be able 2 cope when they get mad it will not be good for them when they get older no one will want 2 be around them lets help them now

  5. awstevens Report

    I am a student in college but I babysit for families very frequently. I know it would be hard to help reinforce these when it is the first time sitting for a family or when you do not keep the regularly enough. I have been with a family in my hometown for six years, since their oldest was 9 months. Since I began watching them they have had a second child who just turned 3. I have been able to see how the girls manners have progressed over the years. The oldest just started kindergarten this year and when I was last home I could definatly tell that being with her peers who come from different home lives has taken a toll on her manners and the type of language she uses. This list of ways to positivly reinforce good manners will be very helpful to help get her back on track.



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