August 17, 2009

Monday Manners for 8/17/09

"You can't be truly rude until you understand good manners."
-- Rita Mae Brown

Today's manner is a simple one. Often children are given compliments or treats by others. Just as often, they forget to thank the person. Most parent's first instinct is to say something like, "What do you say to so-and-so?" with that expectant pause at the end where the child fills in the "thank you" blank. This is not the proper etiquette. The best way to teach manners to children is to model them. Instead of prompting the child, which if you think about it is very condescending, you should just say "thank you" to the person.

Since I've stopped asking my kids what they've forgotten, and just filled in the blank myself, I've noticed that my kids forget less and/or thank the person right after I do. I don't know about your kids, but mine are excellent mimics. They love to say and do the things that I do. It's not really that surprising that they should also copy politeness. Actually, this goes for just about anything where you want a child to say something. If they accidentally bump into someone, apologize for them. If someone sneezes, go ahead and wish them good health. Mine often forget to say please when asking for something. I sometimes repeat the request with a please of my own. I don't try to correct their statement, instead making one of my own, "Could Dimples have a cookie please?"

Later, when I'm alone with the child, I talk to them about being polite. That way the kids feel better about not being corrected in public, and you can still express the importance of manners.


  1. Mine is great at the "thank yous" but we're still working on the "please"s. One think I struggle with is the "ma'am" and "sir"s. I say them but they weren't shoved down my throat growing up in the North. But here in the South some people are serious about little ones using "ma'am" and "sir" so I don't know. I guess I'll just keep modelling it like you suggest, but I can't bring myself to demand it.

  2. We model all the time, and I agree that that's the best way to naturally nurture polite habits. This works well for *please* and *thank you* (at almost 5years, we do insist on them when desiring/getting something). Compliments are a bit more difficult - I don't remember the last time some stranger called my clothes "cute" :-)

    My daughter is introverted and often tends to react to a compliment by turning away from the person addressing her. My reaction is to prompt her to say thanks - I hadn't thought about the impact it may have on her. I'll try to simply thank on her behalf and remind her later, so she doesn't feel embarrassed in front of the complimenter.

    BTW, we've very much enjoyed Please Is a Good Word to Say which covers manners in a fun and approachable way. Not just the basics, but including things like looking at the person who talks to you and being polite even when we don't necessarily feel like it.

  3. Interesting observations. I admit - I am a nagger and always remind Anna of "please" and "thank you"s. I am of an opinion that some things can only learn with enough repetition, but I can see that modeling might work better than nagging. I'll try to mend my nagging ways and also check out the book recommended in the previous post.

  4. teacherninja-According to the last edition of Emily Post's Etiquette, teaching sir and ma'am is parental preference and regional custom. "While the general trend is away from the use of "ma'am" and "sir" by children, the custom has by no means disappeared." I use them when speaking to my kids, so they use them back....sometimes. I don't require them though. My family is from the north also. I started using them mostly to bug my mom LOL!

    nonplus-Since it was on the same page I looked up using sir/ma'am, I happened to notice Emily Post has a couple more teaching tips. One is to role-play. That might be a good way to show kids how to accept compliments, by saying something nice to a doll and having the doll respond politely. Another idea is signaling. I think would work well with older kids who forget. Set up some "secret" nonverbal signals for please and thank you, or even quiet down, listen, and watch your table manners.

    Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll check it out.

    Raising a Happy Child- I'm a recovering nagger myself LOL! I wonder if they make a support group for that?