Teaching Children Good Manners?

November 17, 2011

A boy making a mean face and sticking out his tongue.I'm trying to teach my nephew some basic manners and boundaries, but I don't want to involve swatting or raised voices in the process. He understands me well enough for 20 months, but we have to make some serious progress here and now. Any suggestions out there for this first-time startup family?


By Daniel M.


November 18, 20110 found this helpful

What kind of particular manners are we talking about?

November 18, 20110 found this helpful

I would suggest beginning with please and thank you. Whenever he wants something, you have to show him the pattern: "milk, please?" or "I need to go potty please" when he doesn't use please on his own. Same with thank you. You hang onto whatever "it" is until he says thank you - milk cup for example. If he doesn't know what to say, you say "thank you?" and he will usually go, "oh, thank you." and you let him have whatever it is.


Biggest piece here is that YOU need to be very consistent with this - every time, every thing. He will catch on. You also have to reward the appropriate behavior - even just a big smile is a reward - every time. Hang in there!


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November 18, 20110 found this helpful

What's approriate at this age is learning the meaning of and saying "please, thank you and you're welcome"; table manners; cleaning up behind themself; patience and sharing.

The secret of teaching anything is showing by consistent example because children mirror what they see from day to day. How can you expect a child to learn if you don't practice what you preach what you are trying to teach on a regular basis?


Show the child how to do a given task by doing it with them.

Be kind but be persistent and give praise when the child does well and don't unduly punish if they don't do well.

Most of all, make it fun instead of work.


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November 18, 20110 found this helpful

A 20 moth old child should never be swatted. You can raise children without hitting them. Teach him by example and have patience. He is very young to learn more than please and thank you. Children learn thank you first because they connect the thanks with the giving. Please never hit him.


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November 18, 20110 found this helpful

I'm curious why you say you have to make some "serious progress now"? What is the reason?
Deeli & MooseMom gave you some good advice. Teach him what response you expect by having him say 'thank you' when you give him something, "please" when he wants something, "excuse me" when he needs to say it. And showing him by example is equally important. You have to show them the same respect & manners you expect. You need to use your "please" "thank you" "excuse me", too!


Be patient with him, he's still a baby & isn't always going to understand or remember. Not only that, he's going to go through a defiant stage where he isn't going to do it no matter what! He's not really being bad, he's learning independence & a sense of self.
Show him by example, expect good manners, be kind & patient, he'll learn.

I have to tell you, my 2nd child's 1st word was not "mama" or anything expected like that. It was "me-me" (excuse me)! He was a very gassy baby & passed gas frequently. When he did, I always said "oh my, what do you say when you do that? Say "excuse me" (saying the words slowly). And then one day he did his usual little 'toot', looked at me & said "me-me"!


He used it for the occasion every time after & learned all of his "manner" words very quickly & early - for all the good it did, when he hit puberty he forgot every single one of those words!


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November 18, 20110 found this helpful

Let's see. The child is your nephew, and you write he needs to make 'serious progress here and now'. Uh oh.

Sounds like his primary home life permits him to get away with enough to be causing you to see a need for some better manners.

You're right that swatting the child or other harsh (and in some places illegal) behavior modification devices would be the wrong message to send this little wanna-be tyrant (which is the impression you give in your post,that he's fast on the road to becoming a brat).


There is only one thing you can do and that is what most family members who are NOT the parents end up doing when this happens: you make it clear, gently-patiently-repeatedly, that the inappropriate behavior isn't something YOU are willing to accept as normal when you are around the child.

Several ways to do that and a lot of those are listed in the previous responses to your request for advice:) Add to that great advice: if the child acts up and is unwilling to behave with age-appropriate demonstrations of common courtesy (see the link below), simply hand him back over to his mum and leave.

If you are consistent the child will quickly come to associate tantrum behavior on his part with the departure of his beloved uncle. When you hand him back, you say something loving like "I love you little guy, I just don't love the tantrums". Say it with a smile and a hug, then get outta Dodge.

Consistency is the key, you must be consistent in all of your actions and attitudes with the little guy. Otherwise all he'll learn is that he can control you the same way he does everyone.

Never-ever-ever lose your cool around this or any child, it is always better to hand him off to Mum and leave rather than lose your temper. But never hand him off to Mum, Dad, or any other carer that you have concerns about losing their cool with the child either. If you have any concerns it's better to try and find a safer situation for the child than to take a chance on his physical and emotional safety.

Good luck, it's a very loving thing to care about a child enough to want to help him/her improve their behavior so that they go through life with the good manners to become a person people want to have around:)

Try this link as a starting place in figuring out what is age-appropriate behavior for a toddler the age of your nephew:

I used the search phrase "how well behaved can I expect a toddler to be".

November 19, 20110 found this helpful

The best book I've ever read on child rearing is called "Parenting with Love and Logic". You won't be sorry you read it. Hope it helps!

February 5, 20170 found this helpful

If you are not going to use punishment, then use rewards. Give him an m&m for each good manner copied.


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February 10, 20170 found this helpful

He is almost two. This is a very self-centered age. The best way to teach good manners is to use them yourself and he will absorb everything he sees and hears.

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