Good manners are hard to find these days, yet they are essential for success in life. Clarence Thomas said, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”
What are good manners?
Good manners includes more than eating properly.
Emily Post, famous for writing about etiquette, put it this way:
“Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”
Manners are an outward expression of an inner feeling toward others. While they shouldn’t be a pretense, practicing them can create a feeling of goodwill toward people.
Which comes first? Who knows, but a good place to begin is by teaching manners to your kids.
When should you start teaching manners?
Right away. The habit of good manners is best cultivated early.
Don’t allow or excuse anything that you will have to “untrain” later on. What’s cute at 2 won’t be cute at 13. Obviously, within reason!
25 Manners to teach your kids
- Greeting people by name and looking them in the eye. Shyness is no excuse. Children can overcome shyness and learn to speak distinctly to adults.
- Introducing themselves properly to a stranger. Again, speaking clearly and looking the person in the eye.
- Properly introducing a friend to another.
- Shaking hands. Teach your boys to shake like men – a firm handshake not a knuckle-crusher. A soft, weak handshake is worse than a too-firm one.
- Not picking noses in public (or eating it! Ever!).
- Knocking before entering a room. Especially the bathroom door.
- Answering the telephone politely. Something like, “Good morning, this is ________.” They should know how to ask people to hold on while they call you and to take a message if you are not available.
- Teach your boys to offer their seats to girls and to allow girls to walk through the door before them. Teach your girls to say thank you when boys do this.
- Teach them not to interrupt others while they are speaking, or to say “excuse me” if they really do need to interrupt.
- Teach them to show courtesy to strangers, old people, and guests.
- Having a positive attitude. Complaining, grumbling, and finding fault all make a person unpleasant to be around.
- Respect others by not talking loudly and laughing in public.
- Keeping burps silent. And say “excuse me” afterward.
- Behave properly in public meetings. Church is a good place to teach this. Teach them to participate in the service – stand and sing, kneel and pray, and to be quiet during the sermon.
- Teach the use of “Thank you,” “Please,” “It’s a pleasure,” “Pardon me,” “Excuse me,” etc.
- Answering the door politely – and safely. Teach them not to allow strangers into your home, or to give away personal information to strangers.
- Be on time. It shows respect for others. Men who are habitually behind time will be habitually behind success. Allow your children enough time to be ready and then expect them to be ready.
- Proper table manners. Teach your kids to eat with their mouths closed, not to talk with food in their mouths, not to play with food, not to stuff their mouths too full, to wait to be offered more if they are done, how to use a serviette (napkin), how to use a knife and fork, and asking for things instead of reaching for them. “Eat at your own table as you would eat at the table of the king.” – Confuscius
- Responding when adults ask how they are.
- Giving a genuine apology when needed.
- Offering to help adults if they need it. Especially older people.
- Asking to be excused at the end of a meal.
- Returning items after borrowing them. This shows respect for other people’s belongings.
- Washing hands before meals.
- Saying “excuse me” if they bump into someone.
Some of these can be taught very young, others can wait till your children are older, but teach them.
Start at home. Use role playing to teach how to greet people, answer the door and telephone, offer seats to girls, and shake hands.
Show the difference between bad table manners and good. Laugh about it together and make the teaching a pleasant experience.
Success in life depends on more than talent. There is power in good manners.
Related: 83 Things your kids should know before they leave home
Which of these do you need to work on with your kids?