Teaching Your Kids Manners

“What do you say when you want something?”
“And what do you say now?”

I feel like I’m forever reminding my toddler to insert “please” and “thank you” into his everyday language. As exhausting and repetitive as it may seem, I am trying my best to enforce a habit that should be automatic. I would love it if my two-year-old really and truly felt thankful that I just poured him another glass of juice, but in the meantime, I’ll have to settle for memorization of the social script.

If you have been trying to teach your kids manners and you are wondering why the lesson isn’t sticking, take a look at your own behavior. One of the best ways to get the behavior you desire is to model it yourself.

Are you saying “please” and “thank you” with family members and strangers? Are your table manners what you would expect of your kids? The “do as I say, not as I do” approach may work when you’re around, but it will definitely lack the foundation to carry through the teenage years and beyond.

Take notice when they remember their manners! Kids who don’t get attention when they are being good could try to get that attention in other, negative ways. Don’t just gloss over the fact that your toddler thanked you for the string cheese. Instead, applaud him or praise her! The lesson is more likely to stick if it is associated with good feelings.

Lastly, make any corrections on the spot. If you think that your mama memory is short, try on toddler shoes for a day. Bringing up the fact that your four-year-old didn’t say “thank you” at the ice cream store will not help to change his behavior. Prompt him at the counter to mind his manners and make sure the ice cream isn’t handed over until he does.

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Jennifer Brown is a mama and an MD who enjoys finding fun in the chaos that comes with being a working mommy. Balancing the effort it takes to raise two adorable boys and juggle a thriving medical career, Jennifer also loves baking cookies, taking photos, reading fiction, and drinking coffee.

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