We once went for supper at a home where there the owners had several cats and dogs in the house. They were also smoking meat, which tasted delicious, but that apparently didn’t impress my 2 year old son. He entered the house and promptly declared at the top of his lungs, “IT SMELLS HORRIBLE IN HERE!”

Apart from the fact that my small toddler was using a big word like horrible in a full sentence, as a first-time mom, I was, shall we say, horribly embarrassed! Perhaps there is something to teaching tact very early on in life, I thought. 

Now that I have four children, I am learning how to encourage virtuous character in my children, especially those “traditional” manners that sometimes get left behind in this day of self-indulgent, self-absorbed kids. Here are four five (I added one at the end!) manners that we feel are important (in our house) and how we are teaching them!

4 traditional manners

Four Traditional Manners to Teach Your Child (and How to Do It!)

Saying Please and Thank You

From the time my children were small, we taught them to sign, please and thank you being among their first “words”. This translates to when they begin to speak too! As they get older, they often “tell” us what they want, instead of asking. So we have them restate it as a question, asking them to address us this way:

May I please have….?” or “Can you please….?” This is really good for the times our 4 year old gets frustrated when she is struggling with something. Instead of crying or yelling, she learns to ask for help.

My 6 year old’s way of writing “please” :)

Opening Doors for Others

When I was pregnant with my third, a grown man right in front of me going into Applebees looked directly at me and then walked through the door, letting that door close in my face! That’s not how I want my boys to act when they grow up, so I make a point to remind my kids to hold the door for others. When they’re really little, they love to “help” us :) It’s important for me to do this too, because actions speak louder than words! 

school manners

Wait for the Older Generation to Eat First

This is something a wise woman in our congregation brought to my attention after a dinner one day where the kids all ran to the front of the line. She wasn’t being critical, but just said off-hand, “when I was younger, we were asked to wait for the adults to eat first.”

It got me thinking that maybe this is a good way to show respect for those older and wiser. Teaching our children to act this way has been tough so far, but we’re trying by just keeping them in line with us at a dinner or potluck instead of letting them go ahead. This is just our personal choice, and we have no judgement on those who don’t do it!

“Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.” 1 Thess. 5:12-13


Sitting Nicely at the Dinner Table

Who among us hasn’t had a bit of a struggle with getting our kids to sit still at dinner or chew politely or not reach across the table for the bowl of cherries and in so doing, knock over an entire glass of milk? {But what would I know about that? ;) } 

Teaching table manners takes time but we think it’s worth the effort! Some things we’ve done to encourage this in our children:  

  • Stay at the table throughout the meal, which means bathroom breaks come before we eat!
  • Give clear instructions and expectations {you need to sit on your bottom, use your fork, please ask if you need something, etc}. It’s funny how often I expect something from my kids and forget to tell them exactly what it is that I want them to do!
  • Teach basic table manners during playtime. My daughter loves having tea parties so we practice our please and thank you’s with her dolls {and her sometimes-willing-to-go-play-with-us brother}.
  • Keep it light. We want our kids to enjoy eating together as a family! With more kids, I am slowly starting to relax {I’m rather Type-A} and realize that teaching my children takes time and repeated effort, but the time we spend together is the most important thing!

Obviously, the point in teaching our kids how to behave is not to just make them “good people” but to show them that our actions reflect our heart. And as you can see in the image above this paragraph, we’re a work in progress! Ha ha.

Proverbs 20:11 says, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” This is something to be done with much grace, just as God teaches us with kindness and grace!

What manners do you think are important for a child to learn (that are maybe neglected by large in today’s society)?

P.S. Since I wrote this post, two people reminded me of one really important manner–teaching your kids not to interrupt when two adults are talking! In our house, we combat this habit by teaching the “interrupt rule”. 

When our child has something to say and my husband and I are talking, they know to put their hand on our arm (or raise they’re hand if they’re across the table) and wait until we acknowledge them. Of course they’re not perfect, but it has cut down on interruption quite a bit. 


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11 Comments on Four Traditional Manners to Teach Your Kids (and How to Do It!)

  1. These are great manners to teach little ones. We’re starting with the basics at our house but at three Peanut already knows several. Thanks for linking up to Titus 2 Tuesday. Hope to see you again next week.


  2. I appreciate your thoughts here. It can be really frustrating to teach the kiddos manners… I find I end up nagging or being frustrating & need to find more creative ways to teach. thanks for inspiring!
    would love you to link up at hearts&homes at http://www.mercyINKblog.com :)

  3. We are trying to instill these same manners in our son! We also want him to say ma’am and sir. We are from the South and that is fairly expected here.

    I really like how you mentioned allowing older adults to go first. It does show respect. So often now we run and fix the little kids plates to get them all settled before the adults eat, but I think it teaches the children patience and respect to allow others to go first–even from a young age.

    Mary Beth @newlifesteward

  4. I think manners are so important to teach our kids, and they aren’t always easy. But the rewards are great – my oldest has tons of energy, and is often too much to handle on playdates and such, however, he regularly says please, and thank you, and somehow we keep getting play date invites… (oh and he cleans up after himself like toys, and plates and such)

    Marissa @ forfunreadinglist.blogspot.com

  5. Manners…hmm…you see lots of children (and adults) lacking them nowadays, don’t you? There are so many to teach your children. I love teaching my son to open (and hold it open) for people when we are out shopping. (giggles) He has been known to open it for me and his sisters, but allow the door to shut on other people. I guess you have to be more specific sometimes. Other manners…when company comes to eat, teach the children to let others get their fill before they go for seconds. Teaching kids not to interrupt adults while they are talking would be one of the important manners children should learn. And so many more…

  6. I just want to say thank you for taking the time to raise your children with manners. :) I have a degree in education and have spent time with students not only from K-12 but also now college age, and manners are few and far between anymore.

  7. We worked at this when our girls were little, but I hadn’t considered their actions reflected their heart. What a wonderful perspective that is!

    I cringe when I see so many young men eating. They hover over their plates and shovel huge amounts into their mouths. Ugh.

    These manners are so important. They allow a child and adult to mingle with grace anywhere with anyone. Kudos to you for highlighting how to teach manners!

  8. I’m teaching my children to look people in the eye when they are speaking. They do mostly, since they’re homeschooled and truly comfortable with people of all ages. I also want them to address adults by last name, as in “Mr. White” or “Mrs. Brown”. It’s funny how many people try to thwart that though!

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