Give Kids the Gift of Good Manners

The test of good manners is to be able to put up pleasantly with bad ones.
-Wendell Willkie

Etiquette guru Emily Post once said, “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.”

Of course, having polite children with good manners doesn’t happen out of the clear blue sky. It takes devotion, time and persistence. As a parent of two teenagers and in my work as an etiquette instructor, I know that children are born with many innate gifts and abilities – but behaving politely is not one of them.

We are our child’s first role model and teacher and, as we begin the journey of life with these little beings, it’s on us to teach, show, expect, and reinforce polite behavior and manners. We’re also teaching our children social graces that count more than ever these days, and devoting time to this core value is one of the more exhausting and rewarding parts of parenthood.

Following are a few things I’ve learned on this journey that I hope will make yours a little less exhausting and a lot more rewarding.

Establish clear expectations up front.
The secret to raising a well-behaved kid is smart discipline. Begin by establishing clear expectations up front for how you want your child to behave. Model that behavior, praise your child when he or she meets your expectations, and correct them when they don’t.

Teach self-control and delayed gratification.
We live in an instant world. If your child wants a video game or to watch a movie he or she hasn’t seen, they can download the game in thirty seconds and get the movie, quite literally, on demand. This makes it tough to teach them to wait and keep their cool. Don’t give in though. Not only will you end up with a well-behaved member of society, you’ll have given your child the gifts of civility and peace by teaching them to slow down.

A little humor always helps.
You don’t have to be a drill sergeant when teaching your kids how to behave politely and use good manners. A little humor always helps, and laughter goes a long way, too.

Make the time to help your kid shine.
We need to find the time, maintain the commitment, and be deliberate in teaching our children how to behave in polite society. It is possible to raise a courteous, friendly young lady or gentleman, but it takes dedication and consistency.

At the end of the day, etiquette education is undeniably necessary for every child’s lifelong confidence and success. Manners will always matter in our society and our children are relying on us to get them started and on the right path.

Manners 101
Set your expectations, give praise when they’re met, and constructive, even humorous help when they’re not.
Model the behavior you seek; teach and lead by example.
Practice when you’re out and about socially with your children.
Laugh often. It takes a lot of work to teach – and learn – good manners. Might as well have some fun doing it!

Kathleen Geneva
About Kathleen Geneva 3 Articles
Kathleen Geneva is a licensed Etiquette and Cotillion Instructor with the National League of Junior Cotillions (Prince William and Fauquier County Chapters) and the Emily Post Institute. She was recently awarded the Best New Director of the Year by the National League of Junior Cotillions. Kathleen is also the mother of two tech-savvy teens, and a new contributor to Lifestyle. Look for her column in future issues!

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