Teaching Your Child Social Graces and Good Manners


When to Begin Teaching Children Good Manners

The first and most basic lesson children learn is to say “please” and “thank you,” and experts say the encouragement to thank others and ask for things nicely should start at the pre-school level. Children at this age are learning to internalize the messages others, mainly parents, are sending them. It is important to be a living example of that which you are trying to teach.

As children begin middle school their desire to be accepted by their peers and others is heightened. Most children at this point in their life want to secretly know what the rules are for acceptable social graces. Enrolling your child in an etiquette class such as the famous The American School of Protocol is good at the end of elementary school or the beginning of middle school.

If an etiquette course is not available in your area, gifting your child a book on proper etiquette is useful. They won’t ask you about it, and may seem funny or disinterested about it, but rest assured, when they are by themselves, alone in their room, they can and likely will reference the guide. At this period in their life, the need to be accepted is a great motivator. They won’t tell you that though.

It’s the time in their life that they need the most guidance from parents. They need the adults in their life to be the voice in their ear of what is right and wrong. The establishment of true family values is critical. The golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The how of becoming an adult is what you should be teaching them and it is important for them to learn that good manners really count.

At the end of high school, as children transition into adulthood, is another good time to teach or expand on etiquette in the work place, how to dress, executive etiquette table manners etc.

It is up to parents to always point out both good and bad behaviors and set a good example. Children are very impressionable, but they aren’t likely to pick up on everything without a little verbal coaxing.

Early good manners that you should encourage in children include:

  1. Not interrupting adults when they are speaking
  2. Using the phrase “excuse me” when they need attention, or when they bump into someone
  3. Keeping negative opinions to themselves (including funny facial expressions)
  4. Knocking on closed doors before entering
  5. Refraining from name-calling
  6. Refraining from teasing
  7. Covering their mouth when coughing or sneezing
  8. Putting their napkin on their lap
  9. Closing their mouth when chewing
  10. Not raising their voice indoors
  11. How to properly answer the phone, and take a message
  12. Greeting and saying goodbye when meeting or leaving someone

Teaching Social Graces

As you embark on a lifelong mission to teach your children basic social graces, keep these important points in mind:

  • You are creating a habit and that takes time. Your child won’t learn all lessons quickly. Children are, by nature (and through no fault of their own), self-centered. Your son or daughter will learn mostly by example over an extended period of time. Stick with it. If you avoid the issue for too long you will likely have to un-teach bad manners. It won’t be pretty. You will regret not correcting the problem sooner.
  • The lessons never end. As your child grows you will need to show him or her how to properly navigate certain situations that may not have been necessary when they were younger. For example, writing thank you notes after receiving birthday gifts, and using correct internet manners.
  • You are setting them up for a strong social life. Being polite and forming relationships go hand in hand. People enjoy being in the company of those who are respectful. Your child will be drawn to classmates who have a similar amount of respect for their parents and peers.
  • Positivity is key. Reinforcing good behavior can go a long way. Sometimes positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment for bad behavior. Children love praise. Easy ways to show approval are through applause, verbal compliments and sharing the accomplishment with others. Don’t only scold your child for wrongdoings; praise your child’s success, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.
  • Be the coach. Make an effort to understand why your child is acting a certain way. Perhaps his/her behavior results from the influence of friends or unclear expectations. Once you are both clear on the issue, you can work together to solve it.

It is well known that others judge us by our actions. How they see us is important to our success in life. There is a standard for the basic body of knowledge a well-educated person should know. Establishing a foundation of etiquette, social grace, and politeness will go a long way toward aiding your son or daughter’s success in life both socially and in business. Good manners never go unnoticed.

Additional Resources





  • Manners, by The Conover Company, available on iTunes for a fee


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