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Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Teach Manners to Children and Why We Should Care

This series on parenting has opened my eyes to several things. One is that young mothers like seeing goals written down in black and white. Another is that even though each household is different and each child is different, there are many common goals that we have as Christians. I believe strongly that character training is very important, and as you know, I believe that both boys and girls should be prepared for adulthood by knowing life skills and being trained for jobs. Now, we’ll address one more thing:

Teach your children good manners. It will give them polish—and help people to enjoy being around them.

It’s great if you can start with your toddlers. They grow up with automatic responses. But, even middle schoolers and teens can be taught quickly as well. Here’s an example. At our summer camp, the kids are there for five days. My husband’s job was to man the drink and candy shack. We put a sign up that said something like: “This man can only hear if you say 'please'.” Within about two days, the kids automatically said please, and they were also saying thank you. They can be taught!

If you have small children, each time you give them a toy, say “thank you.” Your toddlers will copy, and soon they’ll say “thank you” whenever someone gives them something. When your child wants something and can talk, have him always say “please.” No please means he doesn’t get what he wants. “Please” means he gets it with a smile.

Then, there are the “Southern manners.” I understand that these are optional, depending on where you live, but I still highly recommend them. These are “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” and “no ma’am” and “no, sir.” The reason I recommend them is that they give a young man or woman that something extra. When he says “yes ma’am” to a future boss, it makes a favorable impression. When he treats customers with a “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” it adds that charming bit of courtesy that people love. When a young man or woman speaks to his pastor or his professor using Southern manners, he sounds like a respectful person. Teach them from small on, and they become automatic. When your child answers any adult, he automatically says, “yes, sir” or “yes ma’am.”

Table manners are very important. Have you ever been across the table from a child with no manners? He stuffs food in his face, not waiting for the hostess or the blessing. He talks while his mouth is full and reaches across the table for more. He says, “I don’t like broccoli” and “I don’t like peach cobbler.” He is loud and boorish, and you only want to escape. Teach your children how to hold a fork, how to cut their food, how to eat smaller bites and keep their mouths closed while chewing. Teach him not to be loud at the table and to let the adults at the table speak, not interrupting. Teach him to ask for something to be passed, instead of reaching over anyone and anything for it. Teach him not to slurp his soup, and never, ever to say, “I don’t like _______________.” He can always say “No, thank you,” or just pass the broccoli on to the next person. It is never nice to be gross at the table.

By the way, I am not for (unless the kids are older than 9 or so) a “children’s table” in a restaurant (or at church). I believe that parents can best supervise their child’s manners if the children are seated near Mama and Daddy. I believe in helping our children understand acceptable behavior in public.

Good manners are, after all, consideration for others. The Bible says we’re to value others better than ourselves, and also we’re to eat or drink with others in mind. (Philippians 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33)

Teach your sons to treat women like ladies and to be gentlemen. Have them open a car door for you, when they are teens. Have them show you courtesy all of their growing up. Teach them how to act in restaurants, concerts, and plays. Expose your older children to social settings where they dress up a little and act like ladies and gentlemen.

A lot of our teaching—especially manners—is caught as much as taught. If Daddy acts like a gentleman and treats Mama like a queen, the kids notice. If Mama dresses like a lady, takes care of her personal appearance, and walks and acts ladylike, the kids notice. Statistics show that sons usually look for a wife something like their mother and that daughters keep their eyes open for someone like Daddy. What are you modeling for your kids?

Do you say please and thank you? Do you treat your elders with respect? Do you have good table manners?

Our ministry is in a city of about 38,000 people. We are right next to a city of 150,000.  The larger city is known for its culture and beaches, and it is very expensive. We’ve noticed there’s a huge difference in the children from the small city and the larger city. One thing is that the children from the larger city are dressed nicely. (Well, yes, their parents have more money, but they also care deeply about how their children look.) Another thing is the small courtesies. They’re non-existent in the smaller city. Almost every child (as young as eight) in the larger city greets us with “Good morning,” lets us walk first through the door, and holds the door for us. Why the difference? Rich people want their children to succeed. They know that courtesy gives them an edge. They know that good manners are an indication of good breeding.

We are children of the King. Let’s teach our children to be courteous, mannerly, and classy.

Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, 
and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, 
and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, 
and whom they might teach . . . . (Daniel 1:4)


  1. I do remember that as a young mom - theory was fine, but I wanted practical, real-life steps! I might not agree with all of what people told me or what I read and might adjust it to fit our family, but it helped having specifics in black and white.

    And I do agree with all of these. It's so much easier to instill when they are very young.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. It definitely helps to start young, but it works later, too. Consistency is the key. :o) God bless!


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