Tips for Teaching Manners

A Mother And Daughter Setting The Table Together

  • There are a few games for teaching manners like for “Mother May I” we add “Mother May I Please.” The exchange before moving is, “mother, may I please take two steps?” “yes, you may,” “thank you,” “your welcome.” After each four phrase exchange, the child moves and the next player asks.
  • Start a ‘manners jar.’ First, talk with your children for a week about manners such as saying “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me” and “I’m sorry.” Discuss table manners each night at dinner. Teach how to introduce themselves to others and how to answer and speak on the phone. Read a storybook about manners each night at bedtime. Then, starting the second week, see how often you can catch other family members remembering their manners. Each time someon is polite, put a pom-pom or a marble in your ‘manners jar.’ See if you can fill it in a week, or measure your progress by seeing if you can earn more the second week than the first. If you want to tie something to filling the jar, be sure to make it manners related (to stay a positive logical consequence). This could be saying, “we’ll go to a fancy restaurant for dessert and practice our newly learned table manners.”
  • Have a tea party to practice table manners.
  • Require thank-you notes for gifts at an early age. It’s fine to start with thank-you drawings.
  • Start a ‘manners journal.’ Each night at dinner, talk about something someone in the family did that day that was polite or an instance where someone practiced good manners. Write it down in the journal with their name at the top of the page.
  • Play board games that teach manners such as The Picnic Basket Manners Game by Noodleboro, The Blunders game of Manners by Successful Kids or Don’t Pick Your Nose by Bambini.
  • Read children’s books about manners:
  1. Do Unto Otters by Keller
  2. Manners by Aliki
  3. Dude, That’s Rude! by Espeland (older)
  4. Manners Can by Fun by Leaf
  5. Manners at School and Manners in Public by Finn
  6. Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners by Berenstain
  7. Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book by Scarry
  8. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Manners by Holyoke (older)
  9. Soup Should be Seen, Not Heard by Brainard

Join me for a workshop on Honesty, Manners, Respect and Responsibility, on July 24, 7:00-9:00pm. We will spend about 30 minutes on ways to encourage each topic.  For more information and to register, please visit

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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